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UC Berkeley professor starts sit-in protest in own office to fight antisemitism

A University of California Berkeley political science professor began a sit-in protest last Thursday — in his own office — to bring attention to “the failure of university administrators to protect Jewish students.”

Ron Hassner (pictured), director of the Helen Diller Institute for Jewish Law and Israel Studies, said he plans to “eat, sleep and teach” in his office until school officials deal with several of his requests, The Jewish News of Northern California reports.

“If my students feel that they cannot walk safely across campus without being bullied, then I will not cross campus either,” Hassner said in a letter to Berkeley administrators.

UC Berkeley has dealt with several anti-Israel incidents since Hamas’ October 7 attack. Late last month, violent protesters targeted speaker Ran Bar Yoshafat and hurled antisemitic epithets at Jewish students, and in October a professor offered extra credit to students if they attended an anti-Israel protest.

Things allegedly are bad enough that the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law sued the school, saying Berkeley “has erupted in on-campus displays of hatred, harassment, and physical violence against Jews.”

Hassner noted that by mid-Friday, eight colleagues indicated they’d support his protest by, like himself, ditching in-person classes and teaching over Zoom.

MORE: Pro-Israel academics make a show of force against boycott resolution at academic conference

In a message to students, Hassner wrote

I will stay in my office until we take necessary steps to prevent violence between students. I will teach, eat, and sleep in my office. My office will be open at all hours of the day and night, on weekdays and weekends, to all students who do not feel safe, or who have been subjected to antisemitic abuse, or who wish to chat. I will also leave a light on in my office window at all times, so that all students walking by on Bancroft Ave. can see that at least one faculty member is sleeping as badly at night as they are. …

In contrast to recent protests, my protest is non-confrontational, non-violent, and legal. It will be easy to ignore, especially in the first few weeks before visitors and media find me and my office in a rather disheveled state. After that, it will become an increasingly embarrassing public display of the university’s inability to make difficult and important decisions.

Hassner noted he’s “pessimistic” his protest will “sway” Berkeley officials, but he’s willing “to wait it out for as long as [he] can.”

Apparently his sit-in already has ticked some people off:

In early December, results of a poll headed by Hassner revealed some eye-opening stats: Twenty percent of college-age students believe the Holocaust is a myth, and less than half know that the pro-Palestinian phrase “From the river to the sea” pertains to the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea.

MORE: U. Michigan creates new research institute to combat antisemitism

IMAGE: Ted Deutch/X

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