As campus fallout over the Israel-Hamas war continues to escalate, hundreds of faculty and students across the University of California are demanding that Board of Regents Chair Rich Leib resign — criticizing his social media behavior as dehumanizing to Palestinian lives.

In a recent letter to UC leadership, a diverse coalition of more than 115 UC faculty, student and community groups and hundreds of individual supporters of Palestinians took aim at several of Leib’s “likes” of posts on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. One post compared an image of protesters holding a sign, “Queers for Palestine,” with an image of cows calling themselves “Cows for McDonald’s.”

The letter said likening queer people to cows was highly offensive and by liking the post, Leib was endorsing “pinkwashing,” which it said was a tactic to paint Arabs and Muslims as homophobic and thus use “queer identities as a tool to justify Israel’s ongoing genocide and illegal occupation of Palestine.”

Leib also liked a post claiming that the militant group Hamas uses hospitals as military headquarters, an assertion in dispute in the latest war. Israel, whose leaders have vowed to destroy Hamas, says the militant group conceals military operations inside and beneath hospitals, which hospital officials and Hamas have denied.

Other posts liked by Leib criticized the campaign to boycott and divest from Israel and one that called National Students for Justice in Palestine, which has chapters on every UC campus, as an “anti-Israel hate group.”

Such posts, the letter said, were “racist” and “homophobic.”

“While the Constitution protects free speech and political expression, the Regents Chair must be held to the highest standard as a figure of moral leadership who is responsible for upholding the core values that lie at the heart of our UC community: Accountability, Diversity & Inclusion, and Integrity,” the letter said.

“Leib’s public-facing social media behavior demands condemnation from our institutional leaders…He has done irreparable harm to Palestinian, Arab, Muslim, and queer communities and their allies, and does not possess the credibility or integrity to continue serving in a leadership role within the UC System.”

Leib, in an interview Tuesday, said he would not resign and declined to comment on his activity on his X account, which he has turned private. The board chair, who is Jewish, heads Dunleer Strategies, a San Diego-based business consulting firm.

The letter, written Nov. 30 to Gov. Gavin Newsom, UC President Michael V. Drake and all 10 UC campus chancellors, included links to screenshots of Leib’s social media likes in question.

It was signed by faculty councils representing Palestinian, Arab, Muslim and ethnic studies professors, along with student and community groups representing Palestinian supporters who are Muslim, Arab, Black, Latino, Jewish, Asian American, Pacific Islanders, Middle Eastern, Indigenous and LGBTQ+. Community groups, such as the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, also signed the letter.

Leib said Tuesday that his biggest concern was campus safety for all students during these fraught weeks. He has met with Arab, Jewish and Muslim students and, at the regents meeting last month, acknowledged their feelings of anger and tension. He urged campuses to pour resources into safety measures, swiftly condemn inappropriate behavior and enforce rules against it, and call out hate speech, even if protected by the 1st Amendment.

“I will not stand silently … when members of our university community are made to feel unsafe,” Leib said then.

The conflict has roiled college campuses across the U.S. since Oct. 7, when Hamas militants attacked southern Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking some 240 hostage, according to the Israeli government. Israel’s bombardment and ground war in Hamas-ruled Gaza has killed more than 18,000 people, according to health authorities in the Palestinian territory. Threats and harassment are rising against students and faculty on both sides. Some donors have threatened to pull financial contributions from campuses deemed insufficient in the fight against antisemitism.

A congressional hearing on the issue with the presidents of Harvard, MIT and the University of Pennsylvania last week created a firestorm, prompting the Penn president to resign and fanning calls for the Harvard and MIT leaders to do likewise.

The letter also called for UC leadership to publicly condemn Leib’s “racist and homophobic” social media engagement and his removal from committees related to Palestinian students and anti-Israel activism on UC campuses.

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