UCLA’s Undergraduate Student Association Council passed a resolution on March 10 condemning anti-Semitism and calling on the student government to take actions to ensure that Jewish students are not subjected to discrimination. ADL applauded their efforts and encouraged the students to move forward on implementing diversity training and other action items mentioned in the resolution. On March 11, ADL’s letter to the editor was printed in response to the New York Times article from March 6. And on the same date, UC President Janet Napolitano issued a powerful statement condemning the anti-Semitic activity that has taken place on a number of UC campuses recently, including UCLA, and stated unequivocally that neither anti-Semitism nor any type of bigotry will be tolerated within the UC communities. ADL sent a letter to UC President Janet Napolitano on March 20 praising her “swift and powerful statements” rejecting recent instances of anti-Semitism on UC campuses.
On February 25, UCLA Chancellor Gene Block joined the chorus of voices denouncing the incident in an open letter stating “Religious affiliations and ethnic identity should not and do not disqualify someone from being an effective judge.” ADL responded with a letter thanking the chancellor for his leadership.
February 23, 2015
According to reports, at a UCLA Undergraduate Students Association Council (USAC) meeting on February 10, council members questioned UCLA Judicial Board candidate Rachel Beyda’s qualifications for the position and specifically her ability to represent students’ interests impartially in light of her Jewish identity and affiliation with the Jewish community. While council members ultimately unanimously approved her appointment, this line of questioning highlights the existence of anti-Semitism and bias on college campuses.
The condemnation by the larger UCLA community was swift. In an editorial, the Daily Bruin criticized the line of questioning right from its opening statement: “Religious affiliations and ethnic identity should not and do not disqualify someone from being an effective judge.”
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Janina Montero followed the editorial with a letter to the Daily Bruin applauding the editorial “that took to task the questioning of the qualifications of a candidate for the Undergraduate Students Association Council Judicial Board specifically based on her Jewish religious and personal identity.”
An op-ed followed in the Daily Bruin where Rachel Beyda’s roommate, Rachel Frenklak, described what happened at the meeting and called it “undeniable anti-Semitism.”
Ten days following the meeting, four USAC members who participated in the discussion issued an open apology to the Jewish community in the Daily Bruin. In the statement, the students indicated: “Our intentions were never to attack, insult or delegitimize the identity of an individual or people. It is our responsibility as elected officials to maintain a position of fairness, exercise justness, and represent the Bruin community to the best of our abilities, and we are truly sorry for any words used during this meeting that suggested otherwise.”
This incident did not occur in a vacuum. Rather, it follows on the heels of the introduction of a number of anti-Israel divestment resolutions into student governments throughout the UC system (including at UCLA where such a resolution passed last November) and on campuses around the country. Most recently, the statewide panel that represents student governments across the University of California voted this month to urge that UC end any investments in companies that aid in the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.
When a resolution to divest from companies doing business in the West Bank failed last spring at UCLA, a vicious campaign to discredit two of the student council members who voted against it ensued. Students for Justice in Palestine (“SJP”) initiated efforts to nullify the two students’ votes because of their participation on trips to Israel sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League and American Jewish Committee. In a petition to the judicial board, SJP asserted that these students committed an ethical violation merely by voting on the Divestment resolution after having taken part in the trips to Israel. Eventually, the Judicial Board of the UCLA Undergraduate Students Association Council ruled that there was no conflict of interest.
In this situation, just being Jewish was enough to raise questions about a conflict of interest. While each of these disturbing incidents did yield just outcomes, their occasion highlights the continued need for education and training for all stakeholders in campus communities throughout our state.
ADL offers many resources for college campuses. A dedicated Campus Affairs website includes information on Words to Action, an interactive education program expressly tailored to empower college students to combat anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias on campus. ADL’s Responding to Bigotry and Intergroup Strife on Campus is a resource that provides information and guidance to university administrators about anti-Semitism and issues facing Jewish students. ADL also does trainings for campus law enforcement to help them learn how to respond to situations that threaten the security of the campus community.