Statement regarding Volk and Kern v. CSU and Mandel v. CSU

Thursday, March 28, 2019

The CSU recently resolved two cases: Volk and Kern v. CSU and Mandel v. CSU, both of which involved claims of discrimination made by Jewish students against San Francisco State University.  The settlement brings an end to what has been a very emotional and challenging issue for all parties involved.  This agreement builds on several activities and strategies already underway at SF State to improve campus climate and encourage more vigorous dialogue on issues of import to our diverse campus constituents.  The agreement also reflects SF State’s ongoing commitment to recognize and safeguard the rights of all community members - including Jews - to practice their religion, express their viewpoints, and participate in University-sponsored activities.  Every member of the SF State community is equally welcome, and no one may be discriminated against or otherwise limited in their educational or employment opportunities because of viewpoint, including Zionist or pro-Israel beliefs. 

The University’s commitment to equal opportunity and access is informed in part by insights gained from recent incidents, including the visit by Jerusalem’s Mayor Barkat in 2016, as well as the Know Your Rights Fair in 2017.   SF State’s implementation of its antidiscrimination policies and procedures will be guided by the lessons learned from these incidents. Consistent with University policy and the law, SF State will strive to protect the rights of all students to be free from discrimination based on any protected status, including religion. 

Public universities are venues for creative and thoughtful discourse where differing perspectives are often vigorously debated and discussed.  For this “marketplace of ideas” to be successful, all individuals – regardless of their viewpoints – must be free to participate in a robust intellectual exchange.  The University remains committed to supporting and facilitating critical thought and expression for everyone in our community.  Therefore, SF State respects the rights of all members of our community to express their views on important, complex and sometimes controversial issues of global concern, consistent with laws and campus policy.  CSU understands that, for many Jews, Zionism is an important part of their identity.  The University’s time, place and manner policy protects their rights in the same way that it protects the rights of all other political and religious groups, including Muslims and Palestinian advocates, to express their viewpoints.  At the same time, the definition and scope of “religion” as a “protected status” as defined under CSU antidiscrimination policies remains unchanged. 

Consistent with, and to further promote, this principle of inclusion, the University will invest $200,000 to promote viewpoint diversity and foster equity on the basis of religious identity.  This investment will supplement the many programs SF State has implemented in the areas of diversity, social justice, and campus climate in the last several years.  These initiatives include, but are not limited to:

  • Revision of University Executive Directive 89-13 regarding time, place and manner (completed Fall 2017); establishment of a standing Time, Place and Manner Policy Committee (inclusive of members from all cabinet areas); and ongoing training regarding time, place and manner policy enforcement.
  • Founding of the new Division of Equity & Community Inclusion (Fall 2017), to more proactively promote equity, inclusion, social justice and a positive campus climate, for all students and employees, regardless of their identities or background.  The Division has been resourced with new staff and operational funding, as well as assigned space on campus in a central location.
  • Implementation of a comprehensive Campus Climate Assessment Project (started Spring 2018), with support from Rankin & Associates – the consultants who conducted a similar survey project for the University of California.  Results of this Project, which will be released in April, will guide programs, priorities, and practices for the future.
  • Establishment of a new program, Interfaith & Intercultural Programs (Fall 2018), under the auspices of the Division of Equity & Community Inclusion, to include two new positions that were advertised earlier this year: Jewish Student Life Coordinator and Muslim Student Life Coordinator.

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