San Francisco State University has announced it will commission the painting of a mural that will include Zionist views and invest $200,000 in “viewpoint diversity” among other stipulations of a settlement to end multiple lawsuits filed by students and community members accusing the school’s administrators of entrenched anti-Semitism.
“We are delighted with the result,” Lawrence Hill, a partner at the law firm Winston and Strawn, which provided representation for the plaintiffs along with The Lawfare Project, said in an email to The Washington Times. “Our brave student plaintiffs have affected fundamental change at CSU [California State University] after years of the University being a hostile environment for Jewish and Israeli students.”
Two lawsuits in six months hit San Francisco State after high-profile events prompted accusations of anti-Semitism against the school. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat was shouted down by protesters at a campus speech in April 2016, and a Jewish student group was excluded from setting up a table at a cultural fair in February 2017.
In the lawsuits, plaintiffs alleged the college had “knowingly fostered … discrimination and [a] hostile environment.”
A federal lawsuit had been dismissed by U.S. District Judge William Orrick III for failing to establish prejudiced intentions by administrators (and was on appeal). A lawsuit in San Francisco County Superior Court was a month away from trial.
“It is the best outcome that we could have hoped for even assuming we had won hands down at trial,” Mr. Hill said.
According to terms of the settlement announced on March 20 and shared in part with The Washington Times, the university has agreed to a host of remedies, including hiring an independent investigator to handle anti-discrimination complaints for two years and the hiring of a Jewish Student Life staff member, who will also receive office space.
One big ticket item — the mural — relates to a grievance laid out in the federal complaint that Charles Volk, a student at SFSU, had been “thwarted” by the college to create and join a Jewish mural to the 15 other murals at the Cesar Chavez Student Center commemorating contributions from various racial and ethnic minorities, ranging from black to Pacific Islander to American Indian students.
Now, according to a statement from Winston & Strawn, the school will allocate “space on the SFSU campus for a mural to be installed under the oversight of the Division of Equity & Community Inclusion, paid for by the University, that will be designed by student groups of differing viewpoints on the issues that are the subject of this litigation.”
A university spokeswoman declined to provide further details about the mural in an email.
“We are pleased that we reached common ground on steps for moving forward,” Mary Kenny said on behalf of the university. “It should be noted that many elements [of the settlement] build on efforts already initiated by SF State toward improving campus climate.”
The federal lawsuit alleged that SFSU was “largely recognized as being among the most anti-Semitic campuses in the country,” listing a number of currents on campus going back to the 1970s, including the presence of Holocaust deniers, derogatory banners hanging from campus spaces, and Jewish students afraid to wear yarmulkes.
After audience members at Mr. Barkat’s 2016 speech were “huddled together in the chairs in the corner” of an event space, SFSU President Leslie Wong apologized during a press conference for a logistical dilemma that led to a breakdown in security.
“The inadequate response prior to, during, and following the event falls squarely on the shoulders of San Francisco State University administrators,” Mr. Wong had said in 2016.