Sunday, April 21

Submission: USAC members’ apology insufficient


Faculty members are rightfully reluctant to weigh in on issues discussed by the student government, and even more reluctant to directly criticize members of that government. But a recent action by UCLA’s Undergraduate Students Association Council is so threatening to basic principles of justice that we feel compelled to speak out. What is at stake is both UCLA’s reputation, which affects all faculty as well as all students, and the well-being of the University’s Jewish minority.

The facts of the case are by now well-known. At a USAC meeting on Feb. 10, several council members objected to the proposed appointment of Rachel Beyda to the Judicial Board on the grounds that her involvement in the Jewish community would undermine her ability to judge cases impartially. After an initial 4-4-1 vote, “a faculty member in attendance eventually stepped in to point out the problems” with the decision and, in the end, Beyda’s appointment was approved unanimously. On Feb. 20, the four council members who initially voted against Beyda’s appointment published, in the Daily Bruin, an apology for their “remarks.”

Here’s why their apology is woefully inadequate: the problem with USAC’s deliberations regarding Beyda’s appointment isn’t the council members’ “remarks” which, in their apology, they denied were meant to “attack, insult or delegitimize the identity of an individual or people.” (Indeed, the incessant barrage of demands for apologies for speech deemed to be offensive is among the dreariest and most unattractive features of the contemporary American scene.) No, what requires an apology (at least) in this case is discriminatory government action. Were USAC a federal, state or local government body, its discussion and initial vote concerning Beyda’s appointment would violate Article VI of the U.S. Constitution (“no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States”). A close analog would be if the U.S. Senate voted against confirming a Supreme Court nominee because of her religion. And let’s be honest about it: Does anyone imagine that a similar discussion and vote could possibly occur concerning a Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu or Wiccan nominee to the Judicial Board?

Now, it’s true that USAC is best considered a training ground for future government officials and therefore, possibly, not bound by all the restrictions that apply to the U.S. federal, state and local governments. But for it to fulfill that training mission, it must adhere to the same basic standards and principles.

Moreover, for many of UCLA’s Jewish students, the Beyda incident constitutes another data point on a disturbing trend line. Only the very naïve can still believe that last fall’s USAC vote to demand divestment from companies doing business with Israel was advocacy for “human rights” rather than an attack on those students and faculty who identify with Israel. Three years ago, USAC’s discussion and initial vote on the Beyda appointment would have been unthinkable. What will become thinkable in the years to come? Will the 2018 USAC discuss whether to emulate the student government of South Africa’s Durban University of Technology, which recently demanded the expulsion of all Jewish students who refuse to embrace the Palestinian cause?

We call on the four council members who initially voted against Beyda’s appointment to apologize again, this time not for saying something hurtful, but for doing something unjust and for abusing the power with which their constituents have entrusted them. And we call on them to apologize, not just to the Jewish community, but to the entire UCLA community, for bringing disgrace on this institution. If they won’t do so, then they’re unfit for the offices they hold, and they should resign.

Cohen is a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering. Manson is a professor of anthropology. Pearl is a professor of computer science and statistics.

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  • klsdjfklasdjflkj

    “And let’s be honest about it: Does anyone imagine that a similar discussion and vote could possibly occur concerning a Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu or Wiccan nominee to the Judicial Board?”

    Yea I will be honest about it. There is a ton of discrimination and hatred and violence against Hindus. When a Hindu tried opening the daily U.S Congress prayer with a Hindu prayer, some bigots shouted him down. So yes the Jewish community isn’t the only community that faces discrimination.

    Nonetheless, I do agree that what happened to Beyda was disgusting!

  • Jonathan

    This was a really powerful and eloquent expression of my (and I suspect many others’) feelings about this incident.

  • meh

    Yeah, student government is a training platform for future government – if you mean they learn to waste time and money bickering over pointless topics and making promises that they can’t keep. Student government doesn’t matter. They don’t do anything. The students apologized so just move on.

    • robman012

      Yeah, I agree. They apologized, so let it go. If it happens again, well…

      • Spencer Jacobson

        They did not offer a real apology. You know this, you just hate Jews.

    • TheIGofSA

      except a Jew hater like you wants these anti-semitic attacks to continue

  • timinhi

    I agree with the author of this op ed, and furthermore, in reply to another comment on this thread, congress shouldn’t be opening with ANY prayers, Hindu or otherwise. It’s about time our government cease paying lip service to the constitutional separation of church & state, and actually begin to adhere to it.

    • klsdjfklasdjflkj

      I agree. No prayers at all (including Christian ones), no chaplains in the military (as James Madison would have liked it), no non-profit status for religious charities, no more presidents speaking at “Prayer Breakfast”, etc. No affirmative action either.

  • ExtraneousInformation

    This article is very well stated. That said, it’s painfully apparent the only reason they “apologized,” was because they were caught.

    I would also like to see the school take measures to disciple the four offenders, being that they violated student code. I’m surprised the article did not list their names. I do believe they need to be held accountable for their actions.

    Here they are: Negeen Sadeghi-Movahed, Sofia Moreno Haq, Fabienne Roth, Minghot Sigh.

  • MuslimUCLAstudent

    As a Muslim UCLA student, I believe these four USAC members are very much in the wrong. Using religion as a justification for “conflict of interest” in an a-religious institution, USAC, is morally abhorrent. Further, I agree that if the same thing happened to a Muslim UCLA student, there would be similar outrage. Beyda would, without a doubt, have been against any divestment related issues. My personal opinion holds that divestment should occur, but allowing this belief to come in the way of electing officials is wrong. Voting against students who have differing view points is not what I as a Muslim student stand for, nor should it be what USAC stands for. As an aside, making this a “Muslim” issue because two of the voters were Muslim is wrong as well. As a Muslim student, I do not stand for what occurred during this meeting and appreciate that my faith not be tainted with bigotry displayed by a number of believers. Clearly, UCLA is not going to do much about this issue, and clearly the apologies were insufficient (apologizing for words isn’t the point!). I believe that something that CAN be done is to open a discussion forum. By creating a, mandatory, space to discuss why using religion in USAC is wrong, I hope that a tolerant religious community can be formed at UCLA. Once again, this is unacceptable. Hopefully it won’t occur again.

    • Barbara

      Well said. You’re a good role model for all of us!

    • suz

      MuslimUCLAstudent, if only you were on this Council. We may not agree with each other but I have a feeling that we would be able to talk, listen to each other, respect each one’s views, learn, and move forward to something good. Thank you for speaking up.

  • hypocrisy

    Can’t comment on Cohen and Manson, but Judea Pearl. Please. Mr Pearl has been an unapologetic advocate of Islamophobia. And we have to listen to his nonsense.

    Has he ever called for external pro-Israeli organizations and people like Millstein and their student body cohort to apologize for their conduct. Never. Of course never. Am i surprised. No.

    • Barbara

      Do you think Mr. Pearl might be fearful because Al Queda made a video as they decapitated his son?

      • hypocrisy

        Fear is not an excuse for Islamophobia.

        • Keven Leith

          You do know what the word phobia means – right?

  • Mister Real

    The Daily Bruin should have called for their resignations from USAC. The four council members that initially voted against Beyda need to resign because their vote was based on discrimination. You cannot represent the undergraduates and walk around casting votes based on race and religion. These four council members are in no position to represent anyone but themselves. I’m surprises no one has filed an official complaint with the judicial board, their actions need to be looked at on a judicial level. Forget the apology and just RESIGN.

  • Barbara

    We should all reject Islamophobia, but “Jewphobia” is tolerated and even
    reinforced by ugly stereotypes.

  • DogOfDooM
  • AvidReader29

    Someone should bring judicial charges against these people since it appears they have violated the UCLA Code of Conduct.

    102.11 Harrassment is defined as conduct that is so severe and/or pervasive, and objectively offensive, and that so substantially impairs a person’s access to University programs or activities that the person is effectively denied equal access to the University’s resources and opportunities. Sanctions may be enhanced where an individual was selected for harassment because of the individual’s race, color, national or ethnic origin, citizenship, sex, gender, gender expression, religion, age, (etc)

    So lets consider these elements to see if the actions of these 4 violate the rules.
    1) Was it “objectively offensive”? The faculty member pointed out the (according to the NY Times) “belonging to Jewish organizations was not a conflict of interest” even though that’s what these 4 claimed.
    2) Did it impair access to University activities, resources, and opportunities? Clearly their vote was an attempt to deny a seat to her that she was qualified for.
    3) Was she selected because of religion? Yes

    • JohnSkookum

      I think it is critically important for those on the right to adopt the tactics of Saul Alinsky. We should be working diligently to get these particular four students expelled, not mouthing platitudes about diversity and “learning experiences”. People hurt sooner than institutions, and these cockroaches deserve to be grievously hurt to set an example for all the other left-wing fascist scum on our college campuses.

      All of the elaborate witch-hunting apparatus the campus Left has set up to stamp out political incorrectness should be hijacked. Every Jew and every conservative on campus should be filing a complaint and flooding the administration with demands that cannot possibly be met.

      I’d like to see angry mobs of people willing to shout these people down, to interrupt their classes and meetings, to hector and insult and humiliate them at every opportunity, and in sum, to give them a good stiff dose of what the modern college campus has become for those who do not toe the far-left line.

      This is war, and these lice are the enemy. There can be no compromise. It’s time to attack the Left and excise the cancer from our campuses by any means necessary.

      • Sandy Perlmutter

        The “right” are no better than this “left” group. The student government needs to reflect the students and respect them as individuals. There is no room for “right” and “left”. John, you are out of order with this talk of “excising the cancer”. We don’t need “angry mobs” of Nazis any more than we need nastily little lefties.

  • TheIGofSA

    these bigot should resign

  • Honey Badger

    The damage is already done to UCLA’s reputation. Basically, far too many students there voted to elect openly anti-Semitic students to represent them in student government. This is a big problem.

    Perhaps a voter recall, like the one California had for Gray Davis, can help rehabilitate UCLA in the eyes of the rest of the country.

  • S L

    At a meeting subsequent to the infamous Feb 10th meeting, three representatives of Hillel asked for apologies from the four council members and *also* from Conrad Contreras, the VP, on behalf of his proxy, Morris Sarafian. The audio from the video of Feb. 10th meeting was only so-so, but Mr. Sarafian used the loaded term “divided loyalties” and went on about conflicts of interest.

    Drs. Cohen, Manson and Pearl are correct in asking for a more appropriate response, but shouldn’t all the individuals that the Hillel reps mentioned participate? Despite the poor audio, I think Mr. Sarafian’s use of the phrase “divided loyalties” in this context was highly inappropriate and that this needs to be discussed publicly. An apology–as was requested–would be appropriate.

    • S L

      A transcript of Mr. Sarafian’s words can be found here:
      http://saltdragon.tumblr.com/post/111624209959/on-the-evaluation-of-rachel-beyda-candidate-for

      Should Conrad Contreras and Morris Sarafian let the actions of their four colleagues be scrutinized while they hang back and say nothing?

      • Sandy Perlmutter

        From the transcript:

        “The “case” marked by a “conflict of interest” that Roth referred to is likely the case brought before the judicial board last year by Students for Justice in Palestine against two Jewish members of the student government. It was brought in the aftermath of the USAC vote on the unsuccessful Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions affiliated “Resolution to Divest from Companies that Violate Palestinian Human Rights.”
        SJP alleged that the two student council members in question, who are Jewish, were ineligible to vote on the matter, per student government bylaws, because they had taken prior trips to Israel funded by outside Jewish groups. SJP claimed these students’ affiliations with outside Jewish groups provided prima facie evidence of a “conflict of interest.”

        Roth drove at the same principle when she questioned Beyda’s ability to remain unbiased merely because of her outside affiliations.”

        This is a place where “Students for Justice in Palestine” can make statements about other people having opinions?

    • Sandy Perlmutter

      I had a flagrantly anti-Semitic social studies teacher in high school, back in the fifties (McCarthy period) who challenged me on “divided loyalties”. A right-wing DAR member.