University of California faculty members, students and activist groups expressed mixed opinions about modifying the Statements of Principles Against Intolerance at a UC Board of Regents forum Monday.
The Board of Regents tasked a group of regents, faculty members and administrators with modifying the Statements of Principles Against Intolerance. The working group held a five-hour public forum in the Covel Grand Horizon room Monday which drew about 90 commenters and 20 audience members.
“The purpose of the group is to come up with statements that ensure our campus is a welcoming, safe place where different opinions can be openly debated,” said Regent Eddie Island, who led the group.
The UC Board of Regents announced the working group in September after almost 20 public commenters called for the regents to adopt the U.S. Department of State definition of anti-Semitism.
The U.S. Department of State’s definition recognizes demonizing, applying a double standard to and delegitimizing Israel to be anti-Semitic. The resolution, which refers to part of the State Department’s definition, does not explicitly cite the department’s clauses regarding Israel.
Kathleen Montgomery, chair of the UC Committee on Academic Freedom and a professor at UC Riverside, said she thinks the formal adoption of the statement will keep UC community members from engaging in academic discussions on these topics.
Montgomery added she thinks the University should condemn hate-based behavior, but its attempt to offer a statement of solidarity will affect its commitment to academic freedom and could threaten community members’ First Amendment rights.
Maria Martinez, a third-year political science student who attended the event, said she thinks the event was poorly planned because its location and timing were inconvenient for students.
“It’s in the middle of midterm week,” she said. “This greatly inconveniences students, who should be the target group for the reform.”
Martinez added she thinks regents should address the campus climate by making certain ethnic groups feel safer on campus.
“Just holding a meeting isn’t going to do anything,” Martinez said. “Regents only react when big things happen.”
Mona Ahmed, president of Students for Justice in Palestine at California State University Long Beach and fourth-year accounting student, said she doesn’t think the regents should adopt the State Department definition of anti-Semitism because it would limit students’ free speech.
Ahmed added she thinks students need to understand there is a difference between anti-Semitism and criticizing Israel, and scholars should have the ability to criticize a ruling government.
Undergraduate Students Association Council General Representative Danny Siegel said he thinks the state definition should be adopted because the Jewish community agrees the current statement should be revised.
“Silencing our voices is unacceptable,” he said.
Avi Oved, UC Student Regent and member of the working group, said he thinks the forum should have included a more diverse discussion.
“There is a common misconception that the working group is only about anti-Semitism,” he said. “The working group is designed to address racism and bigotry outside of the scope of just anti-Semitism.”
The regents will continue to discuss the Statement of Principles Against Intolerance at its next meeting in November at UC San Francisco, where the working group will present its updates.
Contributing reports from Aaron Julian, Nis Hamid, Melody Song and Janice Shiao, Bruin contributors.