The University of California Board of Regents discussed the progress of its Working Group on Principles Against Intolerance on Thursday at UC San Francisco in its monthly board meeting, primarily focusing on anti-Semitism.
Regent Eddie Island presented the board with an update on the Working Group, of which he is the chair. The Working Group has had one public forum at UCLA and will meet with “researchers, scholars and opinion leaders to address the group on issues of the First Amendment, intolerance and anti-Semitism” at UCLA on Dec. 1, followed by two drafting sessions to create a statement, according to Island.
Regent Norman Pattiz, who mentioned he is one of two Jewish members of the Working Group, said a university is “a very different institution” from others that might face internal intolerance, and the Working Group should develop principles accordingly.
“I believe we have to come to a resolution that solves problems that exist in a way that is acceptable to the university,” Pattiz said.
Student Regent Avi Oved said public commenters and media have insinuated that the Working Group has a “specific and exclusive” focus on anti-Semitism, which he said is “not the case.”
“I think we’ve worked very hard to make sure that it’s an inclusive, yet specific way of combating different forms of discrimination that is so prevalent on our campuses, and I think that it would be helpful to have more accurate representation about the conversation that we’re having,” Oved said.
Pattiz said although the Working Group aims to address intolerance of all types on UC campuses, it was Jewish students’ concerns that prompted its creation.
“This is a broad picture of what ought to be happening in the University of California, but it needs to recognize who brought it forward,” Pattiz said. “Everybody believes it out to be broad, but it shouldn’t not recognize why we’re talking about it in the first place.”
Student Regent Designate Marcela Ramirez said she wanted the working group to also consider Islamophobia as a type of intolerance on UC campuses, noting the “state of affairs” in the nation and world.
“I want to be mindful of the students we have on our campuses now that are suffering from anti-immigrant, anti-refugee undertones nationally … as well as taking care of our Jewish students,” Ramirez said.
Regent Rodney Davis said he and many alumni have discussed the issue and feel the Working Group should go further than a policy document and implement educational programs that combat intolerance.
“The Regents, we feel, should urge campus leaders to develop educational programs for incoming and existing students that present the historical and cultural rationale behind the University’s core value of tolerance,” Davis said. “This is what has been successfully done with regard to sexual harassment and assault. It should be done in regard to this.”
Student Observer and third-year political science major at UC Davis Elijah Pipersburg said the Board should have a “task force on black student success” in addition to the Working Group.
“As the gold standard of education, we must show that black lives matter and that their achievements do matter,” Pipersburg said.
Regent Bonnie Reiss said opposition to the Working Group has used the First Amendment as a “smokescreen” to argue UC should not have policies against intolerance, but she believes “acts of hate” are not protected. According to Reiss, a UC student was told he should not vote on divestment from Israel because of his “Jewish agenda.”
“I’m one of those believers that our First Amendment is at the core of being a great democracy … but First Amendment doesn’t protect painting swastikas. First Amendment doesn’t protect intimidating Jewish students,” Reiss said. “When a Jewish student is intimidated that maybe they shouldn’t vote on something because they have a Jewish agenda, that’s the opposite of First Amendment.”