The chancellor of the University of California, Irvine said he is “brokenhearted” in an overnight statement on Thursday after the campus erupted into chaos during an anti-Israel protest hours earlier.

On Wednesday, hundreds of anti-Israel agitators swarmed campus buildings and set up barricades, forcing school administrators to call law enforcement agencies to restore order. Several dozen people are believed to have been arrested during the police response, according to local reports Thursday morning.

“What a sad day for our university. I’m brokenhearted,” Chancellor Howard Gillman began with in a letter to the “campus community.” 

“…the encampers assured our community that they were committed to maintaining a peaceful and nondisruptive encampment, it was terrible to see that they would dramatically alter the situation in a way that was a direct assault on the rights of other students and the university mission,” he wrote in part.


Photos and videos taken at the university showed a standoff between the agitators and heavily-geared police — then tensions reached a boiling point.

“For the last two weeks, I have consistently communicated that the encampment violated our policies but that the actions did not rise to the level requiring police intervention. My approach was consistent with the guidelines of UC’s Robinson/Edley Report, which urges the UC to exhaust all possible alternatives before resorting to police intervention,” Gillman continued.

In the statement, the chancellor said he and school administrators were open to hearing from peaceful protesters, but negotiations took a violent turn.


He added: “I was prepared to allow a peaceful encampment to exist on the campus without resorting to police intervention, even though the encampment violated our policies and the existence of the encampment was a matter of great distress to other members of our community. I communicated that if there were violations of our rules we would address them through the normal administrative policies of the university and not through police action.”

“The latest campus-specific and systemwide demands made by our encampers and their counterparts across the University of California attempted to dictate that anyone who disagreed with them must conform to their opinions,” the chancellor wrote.

“They asserted the right to oversee many elements of university operations involving the administration, faculty, students, and staff, bypassing customary campus protocols and ignoring the function of the Academic Senate,” his statement read. “Most importantly, their assault on the academic freedom rights of our faculty and the free speech rights of faculty and students was appalling. One can only imagine the response if people on the other side of these issues established an encampment to force me to censor all anti-Zionist academic and student programming.”

Gillman lamented that the protest could have been resolved without police intervention, but the agitators forced his hand.

“My concern now is not the unreasonableness of their demands. It is their decision to transform a manageable situation that did not have to involve police into a situation that required a different response. I never wanted that. I devoted all of my energies to prevent this from happening,” he wrote.

The chancellor concluded: “I’m sorry this campus I love so much had to experience this terrible and avoidable situation. I remain steadfast in my commitment to protecting the rights of all members of our community to express whatever viewpoints they believe are essential for others to hear and engage. And I remain steadfast in my commitment to defend our faculty and students from efforts to prevent them from having the same rights of academic freedom and free speech as everyone else on this campus.”

And, “My hope is that we can find our way to a culture of peace, mutual respect, and shared commitment to addressing our differences through the norms of scholarly inquiry and debate.”

In an earlier X post, UC Irvine told students to “shelter in place” as police descended onto the campus.

UC Irvine canceled classes for the remainder of the day on Wednesday and said in an update later that night that classes would be fully remote on Thursday, noting that protests continued into the evening.

Fox News’ Sarah Rumpf-Whitten contributed to this report.

Fox News Digital reached out to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and UC Irvine police to confirm the number of arrests, but did not hear back by the time of publication.