During an otherwise uneventful day, I arrived on the campus of the University of California, Irvine this morning for a prearranged meeting with Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Howard Gillman. Our meeting was intended for us to discuss concerns being raised in Jewish communities nationwide about a possible rise in tension among students in the aftermath of Operation Protective Edge. At that same moment, unbeknownst to me, UC President Janet Napolitano was announcing that she had selected Howard to be UCI’s sixth chancellor.
Many had waited for months to hear who would fill the important office vacated by our colleague and friend, Dr. Michael Drake, amid a swirl of rumors and silence from the office of the UC President. You can, therefore, imagine how delighted I was to be the first to embrace Howard and wish him a hearty mazal tov on his appointment.
The Jewish community was extremely fortunate to have developed a deep relationship with Chancellor Drake. He understood the challenges that the university was facing and made great inroads in creating a climate that valued civility, dialogue and bridge building while marginalizing harmful elements that fomented hostility. We look forward to now working with Chancellor Gillman, who shares Michael’s passion for the exchange of ideas in an environment grounded in respect and democratic values.
Howard is an award-winning scholar and teacher, having served as dean of the David & Dana Dornsife College of Letters, Arts & Sciences at the University of Southern California prior to his appointment in June 2013 as Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor at UCI, and subsequently as interim chancellor. He was a professor of political science, history and law at USC and has published numerous books, edited volumes and articles.
Board members of JFFS’ Rose Project had the pleasure of sharing a Shabbat dinner with Howard and Ellen upon their arrival last year at the home ofJFFS Chair Debbie Margolis and Rose Project Co-Chair Jeff Margolis. We look forward to many more bridge-building opportunities with UC Irvine under Howard’s leadership.
After a few celebratory words this morning, Howard and I briefly discussed the Jewish community’s concerns about campus climate. I was pleased to hear that the chancellors of all of the UC’s are keenly aware of these challenges and are prepared to encourage dialogue, even difficult dialogue, as world affairs impact the campus community.
Jewish Federation & Family Services has been working diligently throughout the summer to strengthen our Community Partner, Hillel Foundation of Orange County, and its campus programs at UC Irvine, Chapman University and California State University, Fullerton. Through the JFFS Rose Project and JFFS Impact Grants, we continue to strengthen many other Jewish campus organizations as well, including Chabad of UCI, AEPi and more. As we prepare for the start of the academic year, we remain committed to bringing together a wide range of community resources to support Jewish students and to ensure that Jewish life on our college campuses continues to thrive.
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