The University of California Irvine moved in May to suspend the school’s Muslim Student Union for a year, after Muslim students affiliated with the MSU participated in disruptive protests at an on-campus speech by an Israeli official.
Irvine claimed that the MSU had “planned, orchestrated, and coordinated” the disruption as a group, justifying the one-year suspension. But the MSU argued that they had done no such thing, and the organization’s new president argued that the ban would “deprive Muslim students — both current and incoming — of a place where they can develop a sense of community with one another and with the broader UCI campus community.”
The MSU appealed the sanction, and a ruling on the appeal is expected by the start of classes this fall.
Whatever the administration decides, this story is likely to continue to develop in the fall. If the ban is rescinded, expect national attention from the media and the right-wing blogosphere. If it’s kept in place, look for Muslim students at Irvine and beyond to seek ways to circumvent its restrictions. Either way, the case — which the LA Times called “the first in recent memory at UC recommending the ban of a student group for something other than hazing or alcohol abuse” — raises important questions about student autonomy and campus organizing.
This post is the third in a series of twelve exploring the student activism stories that are likely to make news on the American campus in the 2010-11 academic year.