Jewish Students Protest UCSA Act

    The Jewish and pro-Israel communities at UC campuses are protesting recent actions taken by the UC Student Association, an alliance of UC students collaborating to provide a voice for the UC student body. After the California State Assembly’s decision to pass HR 35, a non-binding resolution that restricts anti-Semitism and anti-Israel hate speech across state campuses, UCSA passed a resolution of its own condemning HR 35 for restricting free speech.

    The Jewish community, dissatisfied with the methods by which UCSA came to its conclusions, claims that it was not given a voice in UCSA’s decision.

    “One would expect that the Jewish community would have been given the open opportunity to weigh in on such a resolution,” A.S. Campus-wide Senator Brad Segal said. “Or that there would have been a public, safe and inclusive dialogue about something as sensitive as anti-Semitism on UC campuses.”

    According to A.S. VP External Affairs Olamide Noah, UCSA recognizes the importance of representing students as fairly as possible.

    “In order to maintain each student agency, we [bear] the onus of protecting the opportunity of all students,” she said. “When our non-student elected representatives are making strides to limit the right to expression of any group on our campuses, no matter their positionality in this multiculturalist setting, we stand as the representatives elected by our student bodies, whom we interact with every day to impede such efforts.”

    But from Segal’s perspective, the UCSA did not succeed in representing the opinions of all students.

    “Very few Jewish students were approached about the resolution,” he said. “CSA claimed that the resolution spoke on behalf of ‘actual victims of anti-Semitism,’ despite the fact that the passage of the resolution was a shock to almost every Jewish student in the UC system.”

    Segal is part of a group of like-minded elected UC student officials circulating a letter that protests the UCSA resolution process. He wants to condemn not HR 35 itself, but the method by which it was passed.

    “I don’t think free speech should be limited,” he said. “But if UCSA claims to represent UC students, they can’t marginalize a large portion of the student body and still expect to be seen as a credible organization.”

    UCSA says its decision to condemn HR 35 stems what it perceives to be its foreseeable consequences, not from the contents of the resolution itself. The resolution “explicitly implicates UC and CSU students who critique other nations as we do our own as fit to reprimand due to fostering critical dialogues,” Noah said.  “It is a resistance against this attack on the internationalism of the UC and CSU student.”

    “No one should be limited to what they can or can’t say; it’s our first amendment right,” UCSA president and UCSD undergrad Raquel Morales said. “[UCSA is] here to represent the best interests of students and they should develop their own ideals. We want them to come up with their own ideas. It’s not up to us to decide what’s hate speech and what’s criticism of foreign policy; we’re just here to protect their right to speak.”

    For UCSA to reevaluate their position, the issue must go through its entire board of directors for reanalysis.

    “It’s important for us to hear what the other side has to say, as we represent the best interests of students. We welcome any and all feedback, and encourage students to get engaged with their officers,” Morales said.

    In the meantime, the Union of Jewish Students at UCSD is working to demand change in UCSA’s decision-making process.

    “We realize that some [UC] constituents agree that there is a problem with HR 35 in that it goes too far, but at the same time, the UCSA process needs to be transparent,” UJS President Harrison Gill said. “It needs to go on through public meetings and more participation needs to be possible for the UCSD student body and the student bodies at other UCs.”

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