San Jose State professor suspended after altercation during Gaza protest

A San Jose State professor who was seen on video placing a hand on a protester during a confrontation around a guest speaker’s appearance has been put on leave by the university.

University officials did not name the professor but confirmed that an altercation broke out Monday in the campus’ Sweeney Hall between protesters, students and a member of the SJSU faculty outside the classroom where the guest speaker was giving his lecture.

“A SJSU employee involved in the altercation has been placed on administrative leave, pending additional review pursuant to campus protocols,” SJSU President Dr. Cynthia Teniente-Matson said in a statement. “A review of the circumstances surrounding (Monday’s) incident is ongoing and other members of the SJSU community may also face administrative action based on reported activities that do not align with campus policy.”

A spokesperson for Dr. Jeffrey Blautinger, an endowed chair in Jewish studies and professor of history at Cal State Long Beach confirmed that Blautinger was the speaker. The speech discussed achieving peace in the Middle East, which has seen decades of conflict involving the state of Israel and the Palestinian people.

Tensions have been extremely high since Hamas launched a massive attack against Israel’s western border on Oct. 7, killing some 1,200 Israelis. The Israeli military response against targets in the Gaza Strip has killed some 29,000 people since.

“Dr. Blautinger needed an armed escort out of the premises due to protesters obstructing entrances, calling for ‘intifada’ and clashes with law enforcement,” Blautinger’s spokesperson, Nicole Levi, said in a statement. Levi added that “within 20 minutes of the lecture starting, the protests grew too large. Dr. Blautinger had to stop speaking and leave via police escort for safety concerns.”

On Tuesday, the Bay Area’s Council on American-Islamic Relations said that its San Francisco office welcomed the news of the suspension. The organization is the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization.

They said that the professor “grabbed and twisted the arm of a Palestinian student who placed her hand in front of his cell phone camera. Such an action is not only inexcusable but also a violation of the rights and safety of students.”

Video purporting to be of the incident shows an older man, surrounded by chanting protesters in a hallway; uniformed police officers can be seen moving around within the group. The man pulls out a phone and appears to be filming; a person standing in front of him moves to block the man’s camera with their hand. The man reaches out and grabs the person’s hand, pushing their forearm down briefly, then releasing their hand while the crowd’s shouting intensifies.

Teniente-Matson, in her statement, said the university will not tolerate physical altercations or threatening behavior.

“Our campus values the right to free speech and respects the academic freedom of our faculty and students,” she said. “At the same time, we also value the right of everyone in our community to learn in a safe environment that privileges dialogue and engagement.”

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Author: Rick Hurd

EastBayTimes