Publications : Opinion Pieces  

UC Regents Reject Weak Intolerance Statement

Michelle Yabes, Brandeis Blog

September 24, 2015

On September 16th UC regents decided to reject the proposed statement of principles against intolerance because it inadequately addressed the problem of anti-Semitism on UC campuses, the reason for which it was first proposed.

The proposed statement has been heavily criticized as being too broad and ambiguous, simplistically defining intolerance as “unwelcome conduct motivated by discrimination against, or hatred toward, other individuals or groups”. Various groups, including LDB, have called on the regents to use a stronger statement with more specific language in the face of raising amounts of anti-Semitic incidents on campus. A number of the regents present at the board meeting held at UC Irvine last Thursday also condemned the weak language of the statement. They also criticized its failure to address the concerns of Jewish students about campus anti-Semitism, who came up with the idea of a statement in response to anti-Semitic incidents on campus.

“To completely disregard people who brought a problem to your attention, I think is frankly insulting” Regent Norman Pattiz stated after hearing the testimonials.

Regent John Peréz also noted how the statement “doesn’t even have the word ‘anti-Semitism’ in it.”

Within the past academic year alone, UC campuses have seen numerous anti-Semitic incidents, such as vandalized school property with “Hitler did nothing wrong”, “Zionists should be sent to the gas chamber”, and “Grout out the Jews”; the vandalization of a Jewish fraternity with swastikas; flyers blaming Jews for 9/11; and questioning a student government candidate’s objectivity based on her Jewish faith. Many UC Jewish students have stated that they feel unsafe in the hostile university environment that has developed. Jewish students have reported feeling afraid to tell other students they are Jewish, or fear that wearing a Star of David necklace will result in aggressive retaliation by anti-Israel activists.

UC student regent Abraham “Avi” Oved stressed the importance of adopting policies that would insure that no student would feel that they had to hide their ethnic, racial, religious or sexual identity.

He went on to explain in his testimony that:

“The notion of having to deny my birthright or hide my heritage shocked and repelled me,” he said. “No one, absolutely no one, should ever be compelled to hide their identity for fear of repercussion. The moment our institutions succumb to these pressures is the same moments we have failed as governors of this institutions and this university.”

As a coalition of Jewish students read jointly to the regents:

“For years, Jewish students have been subjected to anti-Semitism…For years, we have been forced to wear the badges of our politicized identities. For years, UC administrators have allowed anti-Semitism to go unchecked. For years, we have suffered in silence. But we endure in silence no more. Enough is enough. It is time for our university to recognize, address and take a stance against anti-Semitism and all forms of identity-based hatred. It is time to give students the opportunity to speak about and define their experiences. Only then can we begin to heal the toxic campus climate which has developed here due to years of inaction.”

“We all recognize that more work needs to be done” affirmed UC President Janet Napolitano at the regents meeting. “We want to get it right.”

Many have praised the regents decision to reject such an unsubstantial statement, including LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus:

“The Regents of the University of California took an important step in addressing the growing problem of campus anti-Semitism. We know today that universities nationwide have struggled to address this problem for lack of a clear definition of and policy to combat anti-Semitism. We had previously warned the university against issuing a vague, generic statement that would add nothing to the university’s current policies. If they are going to enter this discussion at all, they should do so clearly, boldly, and with clearly defined terms. We have long urged university officials to adopt the State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism. Now that they Regents have established a working group to develop a stronger statement, we hope that they provide a definition of anti-Semitism that is at least as clear as what the U.S. State Department has already issued.”

The regents announced that they will work towards creating a stronger, more concise statement. Regents chairwoman Monica Lozano plans to create an eight-person committee to focus on crafting more specific policies that will condemn intolerance against any group and maintain protection of academic freedom. This new committee will be headed by Regent Eddie Island and consist of students, faculty, chancellors and stakeholders.

Original Article

If you are concerned about anti-Semitism on your campus, or if you seek advice about best practices, contact us.

Our attorneys and experts are here to help!
Research Articles
and Reports
Over 50% of Jewish American college students report that they experienced or witnessed anti-Semitism on their campuses during the 2013-2014 academic year. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has announced that campus anti-Semitism “is a serious problem which warrants further attention.” Campus anti-Semitism can include subjecting Jewish students to different treatment, harassment, violence or a hostile environment. In some cases, campus anti-Semitism is related to anti-Israel sentiment. In other cases, it is not. For most purposes, we define anti-Semitism according to the U.S. Department of State definition of anti-Semitism. .
Sign Up for The Brandeis Brief
Advisory Board Spotlight

Alan Gura, Esq.
Alan Gura is a founder and partner in Gura & Possessky, PLLC. Previously, Mr. Gura served as Counsel to the United States Senate Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Criminal Justice Oversight; as Deputy Attorney General for the State of California; and as an attorney with Sidley & Austin.
read more