UC Santa Barbara Associated Students President Tessa Veksler discussed her perspective on the Feb. 26 gathering and subsequent signage at the MultiCultural Center, as well as the reception of her presidency amid tensioned campus climate, in an interview with the Nexus.

Veksler spoke with the Nexus regarding the university’s response to the MultiCultural Center (MCC) and events that followed under the condition of viewing the questions beforehand, after speaking with editors off the record in early March. 

The Nexus plans to speak with fourth-year political science and communication double major Veksler regarding the petition put out for her recall during her Term In Review, an annual comprehensive overview of Associated Students (A.S.) executive officers’ terms written by the Nexus.

UCSB temporarily suspended the MCC following pro-Palestinian activists posting signage that expressed solidarity with Palestine as well as dissent against University and A.S. figures and Zionism. The posting drew a crowd of pro-Palestine and pro-Israel students to gather at the center, escalating discourse that eventually led to the center’s shutdown and the suspension of its Instagram account and programming.

The center was closed for the rest of winter quarter and was reopened to the public on April 1. 

The incident resulted in several social media accounts doxxing MCC faculty, staff and affiliated students, and prompted University and MCC community members and the Department of Black Studies to release statements in response to campus tensions. 

The signage named Veksler, Dean of Student Life Katya Armistead and others in its dissent, leading to claims of these signs threatening the named individuals and further fueling campus tensions. This led to Jewish students, alongside Veksler, expressing their grievances during public forum of the A.S. Senate’s Feb. 28 meeting, with students speaking to multiple alleged instances of antisemitism on campus in light of the Feb. 26 gathering. Instances referenced include the phrase “Zionists not welcome,” being etched into the door of a student’s dorm and pointing to a mezuzah, and a comment from the @ucsb.mcc Instagram account stating, “back to Poland or the USA tbh…..,” in response to a comment stating, “hi, if palestine is freed from the river to the sea, where will the jews go?” 

Veksler said she first saw photographs of the signage “slowly appearing on the doors of the MultiCultural Center” on Feb. 25, receiving pictures from Jewish students and administration. After seeing the signage at the front of the center stating, “Zionists not allowed,” she said she messaged University administration to get more context on the situation. 

“The number one thing for me that, setting aside my identity, I noticed was the exclusionary language,” she said in an interview with the Nexus. “We don’t allow on campus to say any group of people is not allowed in a space that’s shared … and then in the groups that I was a part of, particularly the Jewish community, there was concern that the signage was particularly targeting the Jewish community.” 

Veksler said Jewish students began discussing amongst themselves on how to “deal with this issue,” eventually leading to the decision of partaking in the Feb. 26 gathering. 

“By the time that I actually got to the MCC [on Monday] … the room was completely full of people,” she said. “There were already posters all over the walls, and I saw that there was a division in terms of how students were choosing to group themselves.” 

“I saw that Jewish community members and those that may be affiliated with the term Zionism were sitting on one side of the room, and then students that had organized what was happening at the MultiCultural Center were sitting on another side of the room.”

Veksler said the atmosphere was initially “relatively calm,” with students doing their homework and engaging in poster making, but noted a general tension in the room.

“My understanding was that, from the Jewish perspective, they were asserting their right to use a space that they don’t feel they should have ever been excluded from in the first place, and for the other students … I wasn’t exactly sure what the end goal was.” 

Due to not understanding the purpose of the gathering, Veksler said she sat down with some students at the center to understand what was going on.

“It kind of ended up being a conversation between me and a couple other students, and a lot of it was, frankly, very, very hurtful,” she said. “A lot of my listening had to deal with listening to people hurl insults after insults at me, including comments about my identity, comments about how me being Jewish doesn’t mean that I face any form of antisemitism, and just really difficult things.” 

As the conversation continued, Veksler said she noticed flyers being put up on the walls that had her name, saying that many directly targeted her.

“I noticed that a lot of them were direct threats against me, saying ‘You can run but you can’t hide,’ saying ‘You can’t hide’ on several posters, calling me derogatory names.” 

Veksler emphasized that Monday was “a very emotionally challenging day” as she engaged with students at the gathering. 

“I’m also a human being and a person that identifies with a lot of the hateful messaging that was written on those walls, so it was difficult for me.” 

Following University administration figures coming to the gathering to attempt to mediate rising tensions, Veksler said they decided to close the MCC without her knowledge nor input. 

“I didn’t have any influence over it, it was an administrative decision,” she said. “I was asked to leave like everyone else, and the administrators told me that they would contact me later that day, [but] they didn’t.” 

Following the gathering, Veksler said she hasn’t engaged with MCC-affiliated students due to feeling unsafe on campus. 

“I’ve been concerned to engage with students directly after receiving so many direct threats from within that space and not knowing who the perpetrators of the threats would be,” she said. “I wasn’t sure if people were being literal, I wasn’t sure who had written these things.” 

Veksler addressed instances of online doxxing after the Feb. 26 gathering. 

“There was a doxxing attempt of MCC workers … and my phone number was posted online, along with a lot of Jewish students’ phone numbers as well,” she said.

“When the doxxing of the MCC students was published by [Instagram account] Israel War Room, I contacted Israel War Room myself to get those taken down,” 

In the weeks following Feb. 26, Veksler claimed University administration provided her little support. 

“I was offered the same as is offered to every student — safety resources, mental health resources, services, whatever — but nothing substantive that actually made me feel safe or supported on campus,” she said. “They failed me as a leader, because the one student they’re required to listen to is me.” 

“I know for a fact that a majority of these administrators are not taking the time to speak with the students that I had the chance to speak with.” 

When asked about key issues with campus climate, Veksler identified anti-Blackness as one of its roots, stating that anti-Blackness is a “white person’s problem.” 

“Anti-Blackness and racism is a white person’s problem. It is a non-Muslim’s problem to fight against Islamophobia, it’s a non-Jew’s problem to fight against antisemitism … it is still our responsibility to fight on their behalf.” 

Veksler said in light of the gathering, she has worked to “deal with campus climate more holistically” through A.S. When asked about steps she’s taken toward this goal, she cited a joint statement published by A.S. executives and the Bill Condemning anti-Blackness, which in turn created a committee to address anti-Blackness in the association. Veksler noted working closely with second-year political science and sociology double major, current off-campus senator and A.S. President-elect Nayali Broadway on the anti-Blackness bill and committee.

“I don’t have that much longer in term, but this is all coming from this place from balancing the fact that I’m a leader, with the fact that I’m a human, and any human being that receives a direct threat would be cautious.” 

On March 17, a petition was released by A.S. Elections Board on behalf of a student calling for Veksler’s recall. The petition received 844 signatures and was ratified, but following a closed discussion, the senate voted to not hold a recall election. Social media accounts promoting the recall cited division and tension on campus rooted in Veksler’s “inflammatory rhetoric,” primarily referencing Veksler’s personal social media usage.

Veksler has received criticism from community members and fellow A.S. members on her usage of her personal social media account, where she frequently posts about her support for Zionism and identity as a Zionist. Veksler posted a response in light of the MCC signage, and in the weeks following the incident, publicized various interviews she participated in and merchandise from Jewish businesses she supports. 

Veksler acknowledged the uptick in followers she received on Instagram due to the high visibility of the incident, and regarding interviews, said that she speaks with anyone who will listen to her and reaches out to her.

“I think people are just paying attention. I think people saw a Jewish woman speaking, and they listened, and I think that that’s what my platform is,” Veksler said. “I will speak to anyone who will listen to me because especially for younger people, like high school students, I think they’re entering an environment that seems really scary.”

In interviews and speaking appearances, Veksler is identified as UCSB A.S. President, and when asked on how she represents the school when speaking to media outlets, said she goes as “everything that makes up Tessa Veksler.”

“I go as every major I’m a part of, the fact that my parents are immigrants, the fact that I’m Jewish, the fact that I speak Russian, the fact that I’m originally from the Bay Area and the fact that I’ve been in student government for three years. I don’t leave anything at the door,” Veksler said.

With specifically addressing criticism of her social media usage, Veksler said she sees the platform as a way for her to “share a personal perspective and engage in dialogue that’s important to me.”

“My aim is not to prioritize concerns over others, but to contribute my voice and my opinions to matters that I believe are misunderstood,” Veksler said. “I don’t think that I’ve shared anything in my opinion that’s inherently political. I think I advocate for the safety and security of many types of people.”

When asked if she feels her constituents felt represented by her this year, Veksler said she is aware that she can’t satisfy everyone, and that she did the best she could in light of the circumstances.

“I think that any person who was targeted on the basis of their identity would struggle. And I’ve been doing the best that I possibly can to set those personal things aside, and to be the best leader that I can be,” Veksler said.

Veksler believes there should be more outreach done prior to elections, and that it is the student body’s responsibility to elect leaders they feel represented by, as well as the responsibility of A.S. to create an environment students want to participate in.

“Diversity is at the core of who we are as an organization on this campus and who we hire and who we appoint,” Veksler said. 

A version of this article appeared on p. 3 of the May 2, 2024, print edition of the Daily Nexus.

CORRECTION [5/2/2024, 5:08 p.m.]: A previous version of this article stated that the recall petition of Veksler was not ratified. The article has been corrected to state that the petition was ratified, but Senate did not hold a recall election followed a closed discussion. 


Sindhu Ananthavel
Sindhu Ananthavel (she/they) is the Lead News Editor for the 2023-24 school year. Previously, Ananthavel was the Deputy News Editor for the 2022-23 school year, the Community Outreach News Editor for the 2021-22 school year and an assistant news editor for the 2021-22 school year. She can be reached at news@dailynexus.com.
Asumi Shuda
Asumi Shuda (they/them) is the Lead News Editor for the 2023-24 school year. Previously, Shuda was the Deputy News Editor, Community Outreach News Editor for the 2022-23 school year and the 2021-22 school year and an Assistant News Editor during the 2020-21 school year. They can be reached at asumishuda@dailynexus.com or news@dailynexus.com.