Religious affiliations and ethnic identity should not and do not disqualify someone from being an effective judge.
And yet, at Tuesday night’s Undergraduate Students Association Council meeting, that’s exactly what councilmembers were arguing.
During the meeting, several councilmembers, including General Representative 3 Fabienne Roth, General Representative 1 Manjot Singh, Transfer Student Representative Negeen Sadeghi-Movahed and General Representative 2 Sofia Moreno Haq, raised concerns about the appointment of Rachel Beyda, a second-year economics student, to the USAC Judicial Board, UCLA student government’s highest judicial body.
After much discussion and the intervention of administrators, Beyda was eventually unanimously appointed to the position – but not before several councilmembers managed to politicize her identity as a Jewish student on campus.
The main objection to her appointment was Beyda’s affiliation with Jewish organizations at UCLA and how they might affect her ability to rule fairly on cases in which the Jewish community has a vested interest in the outcome, such as cases related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
That objection is confounding both for its vast shortsightedness and for its flat-out discriminatory nature.
Barring the dubious legality of not appointing someone based on his or her religious identity, the controversy over Beyda’s appointment makes little logical sense. The extent of Beyda’s involvement in Jewish community groups is irrelevant to her ability to execute her job on the Judicial Board. Suggesting otherwise implies that any person with any kind of community identity cannot make objective decisions on the board.
If Beyda cannot make decisions about issues that affect her community, can a Muslim student in the Muslim Students Association or a black student in the Afrikan Student Union do so? A Latino student in MEChA?
For a council seemingly obsessed with celebrating diversity in student positions and advocating against discrimination, the proceedings of Tuesday’s meeting were particularly hypocritical.
Several councilmembers asserted that while Beyda was more than qualified for the role, they were uncomfortable appointing her to the position specifically because cases related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can come before the board, and they felt that Beyda would not be able to judge such cases fairly.
And yet, in recent years, the only case related to the topic that went before the board had to do with the issue of councilmembers’ Israel trips, which is unrelated to the conflict itself. Not to mention that it is not the purpose of the Judicial Board to rule on cases related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, only on cases related to “cases of actions taken among the officers, commissioners and funding bodies to ensure compliance with the (USAC constitution) and bylaws.”
It is obvious that the objections to Beyda’s appointment are not only political, but also discriminatory. To hold an applicant to a standard higher than others simply because of his or her ethnic or religious identity instead of his or her ability to rule fairly in accordance with USAC regulations is illogical and immoral.