The Volokh Conspiracy

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Free Speech

Lawsuit Filed by Jewish Students Against UCLA


The case is Frankel v. Regents, filed yesterday; two of the plaintiffs are UCLA law students. (I have not been involved in the lawsuit, and first heard about it today, the day after it was filed.) The allegations mostly relate to actions outside the law school, but some mention the law school as well (paragraphs 197, 272-283).

I can't vouch for the factual allegations, but in my experience the Becket Fund—a 30-year-old, ecumenical, highly experienced, and generally respected religious freedom advocacy group—does a pretty good job of fact investigation. Note also that one of the lawyers is Paul Clement, the former Solicitor General and now one of the most prominent appellate lawyers in the country. A brief excerpt from the very long and detailed allegations:

Starting on April 25, 2024, and continuing until May 2, 2024, UCLA allowed a group of activists to set up barricades in the center of campus and establish an encampment that blocked access to critical educational infrastructure on campus.

The activists chanted antisemitic threats like "death to the Jews," "free Palestine from the hand of Jews," and "from the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free," proudly trumpeting their hatred of the Jewish people. But their actions went well beyond such chants.

With the knowledge and acquiescence of UCLA officials, the activists enforced what was effectively a "Jew Exclusion Zone," segregating Jewish students and preventing them from accessing the heart of campus, including classroom buildings and the main undergraduate library. In many cases, the activists set up barriers and locked arms together, preventing those who refused to disavow Israel from passing through.

To enter the Jew Exclusion Zone, a person had to make a statement pledging their allegiance to the activists' views and have someone within the encampment "vouch" for the individual's fidelity to the activists' cause. While this may have prevented a pro-Israel Christian from entering the Zone and permitted access for a Jewish person willing to comply with the enforcers' demands, given the centrality of Jerusalem to the Jewish faith, the practical effect was to deny the overwhelming majority of Jews access to the heart of the campus.

Activists issued wristbands or other forms of identification to those who passed this Orwellian inquisition.

UCLA's administration knew about the activists' extreme actions, including the exclusion of Jews. But, in a remarkable display of cowardice, appeasement, and illegality, the administration did nothing to stop it.

UCLA Chancellor Gene Block publicly acknowledged that "students on their way to class have been physically blocked from accessing parts of the campus."

Yet even as the activists continued to enforce the Jew Exclusion Zone, Defendants not only failed to marshal resources to intervene—they adopted a policy facilitating the Jew Exclusion Zone, ordering, among other things, UCLA campus police to stand down and step aside.

And not only that, but UCLA also hired security staff and stationed them on the outskirts of the encampment and other restricted areas.

But rather than instruct this additional staff to assist Jewish students in accessing campus resources, UCLA instead instructed them to discourage unapproved students from attempting to cross through the areas blocked by the activists.

The security officers, acting as agents of Defendants, informed Jewish persons that, if they wished to access the encampment or other restricted areas, they would first need to obtain the permission of the encampment members.

Naturally, I also expect lawsuits to be filed over UCLA's failure to promptly intervene in the attack on the pro-Palestinian encampment the night of April 30, and I'll blog about those when I hear of them. (It may be that both the failure to disperse the encampment and the failure to protect were both violations of UCLA's various obligations.)