Regents blast draft of university’s intolerance declaration

18 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Regents reject intolerance statement.

IRVINE, Calif. (AP) — Under pressure from Jewish organizations, members of the University of California’s governing board Thursday called for an overhaul of a proposed set of system-wide principles against intolerance, saying it should explicitly address anti-Semitism. The UC regents on Thursday withdrew controversial “principles of intolerance” and launched a new effort to rewrite policies that would more forcefully address anti-Semitism and other biases on campuses, while trying also to protect free speech.

University of California regents are going back to the drawing board to rewrite a statement about intolerance after a proposed version was heavily criticized as being meaningless. The move, announced by UC regents Chairwoman Monica Lozano, came after several regents complained that the proposed principles were so vague as to be worthless and that any new policy needed to be more specific about what constitutes bias against Jewish and other students.

At Thursday’s board meeting in UC Irvine, Regent Norman Pattiz said the statement before them didn’t say anything new and didn’t address the reason it was drafted in the first place: a number of instances of anti-Semitism on UC campuses. Jewish organizations concerned about a series of incidents on campuses — including swastikas and Hitler graffiti — asked the UC system in March to take a stronger stand and adopt the U.S. About two dozen people gave input to the board of regents at their meeting at UC Irvine about the proposed “Statement of Principles Against Intolerance,” a broad declaration that free speech advocates contended would amount to censorship.

Groups critical of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians applauded the omission of the State Department’s definition in the statement, saying they feared it could be used to silence them. Others, including UC professors and the student group Justice for Palestine, said they feared such a definition could result in the stifling of academic discussions about conflicts between Israel and Palestine.

Student Regent Avi Oved told KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO he believes students have a Constitutionally-protected right to speak their mind, but that right must be limited in certain circumstances. “To be honest, under the First Amendment people do have the right to be racist. The statement adds that it is not intended to inhibit faculty’s classroom lectures and scholarship or students’ political or literary expression protected by “academic freedom or free-speech principles.” Several students representing Jewish groups from several UC campuses took turns readings a statement urging the regents to not adopt the statement, but rather pursue a policy that specifically addressed anti-Semitism. State Department definition to the UC “principles against intolerance,” the university would take a step toward addressing “ugly and threatening” incidents of anti-Semitism that often arise from anti-Israel protests on campuses, said Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, a UC Santa Cruz lecturer and director of the AMCHA Initiative. In contrast, UC Irvine graduate student Kurt Horner urged the regents not to add that extra definition involving Israel and said he feared it would stifle open debate about the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts. “If that is not a political situation you can talk about, then you cannot talk about any political situation anywhere or about any government in the world,” he said.

A woman who identified herself as an American-Israeli Jew who graduated from UC Davis in 2012 said she felt unprotected on campus and said allowing anti-Israel actions on campus is a loophole that legitimizes hatred. Following several anti-Semitic actions on campuses that include painting of swastikas and hateful statements, the UCLA Undergraduate Student Association Council, Associated Students of UC Berkeley and UC Santa Barbara Associated Students Senate adopted the State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism. “Anti-Semitism of the present has extended the umbrella of demonization, delegitimization and double standards from the Jewish people to the Jewish state,” the letter read. The issue arose in part as a result of several troubling incidents this year at UC schools, including the defacing of a Jewish fraternity house at UC Davis with Nazi swastikas in January.

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