Monday, July 24

Editorial: Removal of controversial USAC video breaches code of transparency


In just four weeks, an on-campus controversy about anti-Semitism has gone global.

On Thursday, The New York Times published an article recounting the Undergraduate Students Association Council Feb. 10 meeting, in which four councilmembers called into question Rachel Beyda’s ability to serve on the USAC Judicial Board because of her Jewish identity and her involvement with the Jewish community on campus.

Dozens of media outlets have since reported on the meeting and the ignorant comments of these four councilmembers, but what initially flew under the radar amid this national discussion was the council’s lack of transparency.

Some time between the conclusion of the Feb. 10 meeting and the publication of The New York Times piece, the archived stream of the meeting was taken down and now only exists as an edited YouTube clip. The four councilmembers said they received online threats since the meeting, and threats are indeed concerning for the councilmembers’ safety.

However, the video’s removal is still a serious breach of our student government’s promise of transparency to students and an error that should be reversed by USAC at its upcoming meeting.

This marks the first video that has been taken down by the channel’s administrators. USAC Internal Vice President Heather Hourdequin cited fellow councilmembers’ safety as a reason for removing the video.

The conversation surrounding the meeting has undoubtedly been vitriolic and threats to sitting councilmembers should neither be belittled nor ignored, but the removal of an entire video of a USAC council meeting with the click of a button sets a dangerous precedent for leaders who are responsible to a student electorate.

Last year, the Daily Bruin removed part of its recording of a controversial divestment meeting after a non-elected student at the council table received death threats for her emotional words in the good and welfare portion of the meeting. Hourdequin said USAC viewed this as precedent for taking down the Feb. 10 meeting video.

But the emotional behavior of the notetaker on council and the discriminatory remarks of the UCLA student body’s elected officials should not be conflated.

When councilmembers – whose emails, pictures and names are already public online – question a student based on her Jewish identity, there should be a record of it. It should not be hidden.

An anti-Semitic conversation played out at the USAC council table on Feb. 10. Ultimately, Beyda was appointed unanimously to her post on the Judicial Board, but several councilmembers failed in their responsibility to represent and work with a diverse student body. That should not be hidden and cannot be changed by simply removing the video documenting it.

Even these most serious errors and prejudices on the council table can be corrected through education. But it starts with councilmembers recognizing these mistakes through maintaining a complete and transparent record of the Feb. 10 meeting.

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  • Honey Badger

    The full video still exists, no thanks to UCLA who indeed did try to censor it. Enjoy your elected representatives, showing their true white robes for all to see.

    Full video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2l3NBbiQ11Q

  • vincent

    Restoring the video needs to occur, but it is not enough. The USAC needs to acknowledge and address the fact that the Beyda incident is simply the inevitable and logical outcome of the growing alignment of the USAC with the BDS movement. While opposition to Israel policies is not inherently racist or anti-semitic, the way the BDS movement has been conducted on college campuses, including UCLA, makes the rise of a hostile atmosphere for Jewish students inevitable:

    1. Leaders in the movement do not focus on human rights generally or even on human rights violations on both sides of the conflict. Instead they single out Israel. No other country or group is targeted, including Hamas, whose human rights record is appalling. Having student governments single out the sole country on Earth with a majority Jewish population as an evil or hateful entity and ignore other groups and countries with objectively far worse human rights records, including groups like Hamas who are directly involved in the conflict, inevitably reinforces and brings back old stereotypes that there is something bad or evil about the Jewish people.

    2. BDS leaders fail to acknowledge human rights successes in Israel. While criticism of Israeli policy in Gaza and the West Bank is certainly legitimate, it is important to remember that Arabs and Muslims who live in Israel enjoy full civil rights, are allowed and actually do hold government offices, that all citizens enjoy freedom of religion, rights for women and LGBT individuals are guaranteed. No other country in the Middle East can claim this astonishing human rights success story, but instead of holing it up as a model for other nations to follow, the BDS movement ignores it because it does not fit into their narrative that Israel is an evil country. Again, this lack of balance, especially when adopted by official campus groups like student governments, creates an atmosphere where Jewish students are marginalized and their peers are taught to think of Israel and by extension Jews as bad or evil.

    3. There is actual Anti-Antisemitism motivating the BDS movement (This is not to say all or even most participants are Anti-Semitic, just that there is a strong current of Antisemitism motivating and running through the movement). Any honest observer can see this. Recently at UC Davis, Azka Fayyaz, an SJP member and student member displayed a sign depicting the Israeli prime minister with devil horns reaching back to Medieval stereotypes that Jews are servants of the Devil and also posted on her face book page “Israel will fall insha’Allah.” And shortly after the UC Davis student government backed a BDS resoultion, a Jewish fraternity that spoke out against it was defaced with swastikas. These types of incidents are inevitable as the anti-Israel rhetoric on college campuses like UCLA gets louder.

    4. Failure to distinguish between Jews and Israelis. Not enough effort is made by BDS supporters to separate the actions of the Israeli government from the religion and culture of some of its citizens. For example while terrost acts committed by Palestinians are rightfully referred to as acts by Hamas or Palestinian militants, acts by the Israeli government or Israeli settlers that BDS disagrees with are often labelled acts by “Jewish Settlers.,” etc. This type of conflation leads to exactly what we saw in the Beyda incident where presumably well meaning students have been indoctrinated to automatically equate Israeli with Jew and think that any Jew must have divided loyalties.

    So while the Beyda incident is of course very important, lets not lose site of the larger issue which is the troubling rise of Antisemitism at UCLA and other college campuses, and its causes, which include a failure to critically examine the increasing influence the BDS movement has on both student government and campus life.

  • Brownstudent

    When UCLA embraced BDS they sent a message loud and clear that they don’t think Jews have the same human rights as other groups. You can’t endorse one form of anti-Semitism and criticize another. Say what you will about these students but at least they are consist. The rest of the UCLA community, on the other hand, needs to figure out where they stand in regards to the treatment of Jewish students.

  • Jenny Librero

    As I am reading this, I just finished reading a mainstream media article on a similar situation that just occurred at the University of Oklahoma, where a 9 second video was made of SAE fraternity members singing a very offensive and racist and song about people of color.

    It’s an amazing contrast — The reaction of the University’s President was both immediate and decisive:

    “To those who have misused their free speech in such a reprehensible way, I have a message for you. You are disgraceful. You have violated all that we stand for. You should not have the privilege of calling yourselves “Sooners.” Real Sooners are not racist. Real Sooners are not bigots. Real Sooners believe in equal opportunity. Real Sooners treat all people with respect. Real Sooners love each other and take care of each other like family members.”
    “Effective immediately, all ties and affiliations between this University and the local SAE chapter are hereby severed. I direct that the house be closed and that members will remove their personal belongings from the house by midnight tomorrow. Those needing to make special arrangements for positions shall contact the Dean of Students.”
    “All of us will redouble our efforts to create the strongest sense of family and community. We vow that we will be an example to the entire country of how to deal with this issue. There must be zero tolerance for racism
    everywhere in our nation.”

    Now contrast the above with the administrative reaction at UCLA to a 40 minute video of a group of students in power denying academic opportunity to another student based solely on their faith: the only action that has occurred as a result of this unacceptable incident is that the video evidence of the discrimination has been removed out of concern for the perpetrators.

    Can there be a shred of doubt as to which of the two learning institutions is truly committed to providing an academic environment that is inclusive, diverse, fair and transparent? Which of the two will most likely take their incident as an opportunity to learn and grow rather then cover up and ignore?

  • JoeBruin

    Kicking them out is pretty easy, it just takes a petition, 3,000 signatures, and an election is called within 15 days: https://www.usac.ucla.edu/documents/elections/USAC%20Constitution.pdf

    • bruinanon

      Let’s do it

  • Malcom Warner

    The BDS movement is anti-Semitism dressed up in the false garb of social justice. Even the Palestinian Authority doesn’t support this movement because it strikes at the very legitimacy of Israel as a nation – a nation which the PA sees as neighbors and partners in seeking a peace agreement. The PA has rejected the BDS movement for more than 20 years, as have most of the moderate states in the Arab League like Jordan and Morocco.

    BDS is essentially a convenient shield for anti-Semitic extremists who question not just the policies of the Israeli government, but the legitimacy of the nation of Israel itself, and want to destroy it economically.

  • M2000

    Message from the modern day American college campus, you’re bigotry isn’t welcome if you’re white but if you’re not you’re bigotry is just fine.

  • TheIGofSA

    The four must resign