University of California intolerance policy stirs debate

27 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

AM Alert: Seeking to address anti-Semitism, UC tries again to write ‘principles against intolerance’.

LOS ANGELES (CBS / AP) — Students, professors and activists wrangled at a public forum Monday over how best to address intolerance at the University of California, with some Jewish groups arguing the schools should adopt a policy with a more precise definition of anti-Semitism and others saying it would stifle free speech. Dozens of speakers representing a variety of views testified Monday at UCLA before a university committee facing the difficult task of crafting an anti-bias policy without violating free speech. A working group of regents and university leaders invited input as it works to revise a proposed policy denouncing intolerance, which Jewish organizations criticized in September as not going far enough to deter what they describe as a spike in anti-Semitism on UC’s 10 campuses.

The panel of UC regents, faculty and administrators was appointed in September after the full board of regents rejected a previously proposed and controversial statement against intolerance that was deemed too vague and not strong enough in condemning incidents of anti-Semitism. The public system with nearly 250,000 students has become a focal point in the discussion of freedom of expression and civil liberties on college campuses following several high-profile incidents, including one in which swastikas were spray-painted on a Jewish fraternity house. “Jewish students are fearful to show their support for Israel,” said Leore Ben David, a campus coordinator for the Zionist Organization of America. “I am not here today to silence criticism of Israel. I am asking this working group to take a stand against racism and injustice.” David and other Jewish groups pressed university leaders to adopt the U.S.

The UC’s governing board considered a policy rejecting intolerance and upholding academic freedom drafted by the president’s office at its meeting in September. They said that the adoption of such a policy would not chill free speech since such no punishments would be prescribed for participating in such protests. Her remarks drew criticism from free speech advocates and those critical of Israel’s policy toward Palestine, who said they feared it could be used to silence them. “I do believe it is the most authoritative and well-respected definition of antisemitism that is consistent with the understanding of the vast majority of the Jewish community,” said Rossman-Benjamin, who is scheduled to speak Monday. Among the participants are regents Norm Pattiz, who called the draft statement “frankly insulting” to the Jewish community at last month’s meeting, and former Assembly Speaker John A. It had outlined various acts — including harassment, hate speech and derogatory use of cultural symbols — but did not address any particular group.

Yaeli Steinberg, a recent UC Davis graduate, said she had trouble filling spots in a Jewish sorority house because students feared they would be targeted. His relationship with UCSF extends back at least a few years: Brown was treated there for prostate cancer in 2012, and in April, he announced a two-year, $3-million initiative to advance data-driven “precision medicine” that will be hosted by the university.

THIS IS THE END: As fires rage and the water dries, the California Natural Resources Agency is trying to plan how the state can prepare for and adapt to the worst effects of climate change. David Myers, a professor of Jewish history at UCLA, told the working group that he and other scholars believe any policy the board adopts should include but not focus largely on anti-Semitism alone. It would “limit the range of political inquiry, awareness, expression and education on campus,” said Chandler, who is Jewish and has Israeli relatives. It’s now taking public comment on its draft “Safeguarding California” report, starting with a 10 a.m. workshop at the California Energy Commission on 9th Street. Pérez and Bruce Varner; student regent Avi Oved; UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi; UC Academic Council Chair Dan Hare; and UC Vice Provost for Diversity and Engagement Yvette Gullatt.

Pérez, former state Assembly speaker, said Monday that the panel will remain in listening mode for months, and will meet in subsequent sessions with experts on issues of discrimination and free speech. They’re among the speakers for today’s “women’s empowerment” seminar hosted by California Women Lead, a nonprofit that trains women for elected and appointed office. He said the committee will not be bound by any parts of the statement withdrawn in September and is starting from scratch to develop new policies regarding intolerance on campuses while also supporting free speech. In February, several student government leaders at UCLA questioned a student’s eligibility for a campus judicial panel because she is Jewish; those leaders later apologized and the student was unanimously approved for the position. The proposed policy statement withdrawn last month condemned ethnic, religious and gender bias and sought to “reflect the university’s core values of respect, inclusion, academic freedom and a free and open exchange of ideas.” It did not include any specific punishments, although officials say the long-standing policies allow for sanctions, including suspension and expulsion, for such acts as assaults and racist graffiti.

The previous statement included a “non-exhaustive list” of actions it said “do not reflect the university’s values of inclusion and tolerance.” Among those: vandalism and graffiti with symbols of hate, including swastikas and nooses; questioning a student’s fitness for a leadership role based on race, religion, ethnicity, gender and other factors; and depicting ethnic or racial groups as less ambitious, less talented or more threatening than others.

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