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Submission: Bigoted actions of USAC presidential candidate unacceptable

By Natalie Charney

April 22, 2015 12:08 a.m.

We can all agree Undergraduate Students Association Council has its shortcomings, but on Feb. 10 of this year, it left the greatest of stains on its legacy.

Four elected councilmembers questioned a student for nearly forty minutes regarding her Jewish identity. While the incident made national headlines, one of the most vocal opponents of Rachel Beyda’s appointment was left unmentioned: Morris Sarafian, a current candidate for President in the upcoming USAC elections, who at the time was sitting in as a proxy for the current USAC External Vice President.

Sarafian claimed that because of her Jewish faith, Rachel Beyda would have a “divided loyalty.” This accusation, defined as “accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide” by the U.S. State Department, is not foreign to the Jewish people. Jews have long been accused of holding “divided loyalties” throughout their very long history. This slanderous imputation carries with it the power to dehumanize and destroy, and demands our full condemnation as a Bruin community. The accusation should never be pulled from the ash heap of history and legitimized or propagated as fact – least of all by an individual who seeks the highest position of leadership on this campus.

Anti-Semitism today is not what it looked like in the 1930s. It has evolved into different repugnant forms of evil, and worse, has been masked in the guise of the new normalized culture of campus politics. To call this a slippery slope would be an understatement. To give credence to the idea that someone’s race, religion, ethnicity or sexuality could impair his or her ability to maintain neutrality and remain unbiased would be to accept, not only discrimination, but bigotry in its purest form. No society, community or university should ever allow this toxic mentality to exist. According to his platform for president, Sarafian aims to “foster campus community where we are bringing the focus of USAC back to student needs, interfaith dialogue and diversity as a focal point of our experience as Bruins.” Despite this worthwhile ambition, Sarafian’s previous actions and lack of recognition for his fault prove him unaccountable to this aim. In no way should his bigoted mentality be granted the potential and privilege to lead the next generation of representatives for UCLA.

At endorsements, when asked how he’s fought and advocated for the needs of the UCLA Jewish community in the past, Sarafian failed to recognize his past transgression. Clearly, Sarafian does not understand the Jewish community or our struggles, when just a couple of months ago, he was at the forefront of a student government conversation that in its tenets perpetuated the ugliest form of intolerance within the history of the Jewish people. As a graduating senior, I feel absolutely compelled to speak out against Morris Sarafian’s discriminatory speech against my community, just like any other leader would do within his or her respective community.

I wish I could say it would be enough for Mr. Sarafian to offer an apology. But the truth is no apology will absolve him of the wrongdoing that he committed that night. No apology will take back the words which were expressed and the damage that was done to the Jewish community as a result of them. It is imperative that Sarafian pledge to educate himself about the Jewish community, its history and the systematic struggles it faces here on this campus.

As someone who believes my USAC President should strive to represent all communities, I have no faith in Sarafian’s ability to do so.

Charney is a fourth-year global studies student and the student board president of Hillel at UCLA.

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