Letter to the UCSA Board of Directors in Response to the Passage of "A Resolution Regarding California Assembly Bill HR 35"

The UCSA President, Raquel Morales, responded to this letter on October 27, 2012. 

October 19, 2012
To the UCSA Board of Directors,

We, elected student officials across the University of California, representing diverse religions, races, and ethnicities, wish to express our dismay in regards to the passage of the UC Students Association resolution entitled “Resolution Regarding California Assembly Bill HR 35” on September 17, 2012. We believe UCSA has violated the rights to representation of a significant portion of its campus with the passage of this resolution.

Within the Jewish community and across the UC system, there is a wide diversity of opinion with regards to HR 35. Many members of the Jewish community, and many supporters of this letter, believe HR 35 infringes on our First Amendment rights, and still others believe HR 35 is an encouraging step towards the protection of Jewish students. However, UCSA’s resolution capitalizes on an ongoing debate on speech to use rhetoric offensive to many of its constituents. We have concerns in the following areas:

The lack of transparency in UCSA’s process served to restrict the civil disagreement and debate crucial for a university system that promotes free speech. UCSA’s poorly considered processes created a scenario in which there were no public agendas and in which an item could be added to the agenda last minute, leaving no possibility of keeping the students UCSA is charged with representing informed prior to debate. Specific to the meeting on September 17th, we find the unequal representation of groups in attendance, coupled with the mixed reports in campus media sources that indicate this resolution was under consideration months prior to the UCSA Board Meeting, to be deeply troubling. Students have perceived that their External Vice Presidents co-authored a resolution on an issue they actively lobby on, and failed to dialogue with them about it, engage with them on it, or even inform them of it. Without charging mal-intent, we would like to bring to light to the leadership of UCSA that in many students minds, this creates a suspicious perception that UCSA conspired to keep their voices silent on this issue.

The marginalization of UC students on the part of UCSA delegitimizes the only lobby whose mission it is to fight for those same students. As a representative lobby, it is inappropriate for UCSA to take a firm position on an issue that alienates its constituents. UCSA’s resolution refers to "Israel’s illegal occupation” and charges Israel with “racism and Apartheid in the context of Israeli policies” without recognizing the level of debate and dissension constantly occurring around this hostile rhetoric. Furthermore, the resolution takes a stance “in strong opposition to...the racism of Israel’s human rights violations” and “encourages all institutions of higher learning to cleanse their investment portfolios of unethical investments” in companies that do business with Israel. This extreme language alienates a significant portion of the campus community, especially those whose identities are closely tied with the Jewish state. As a governing body, it is the responsibility to create a safe campus environment and avoid making comprehensive statements that can be perceived as an attack on those UCSA claims to represent.

The misrepresentation of UC students to the UC Regents, and the California State Assembly by UCSA is also inappropriate. Very few members of the Jewish community, of which this resolution directly impacts, were approached. This is especially troublesome, seeing as how UCSA finds it appropriate to speak on behalf of “actual victims of anti-Semitism.” This lack of inclusion bars the resolution from being representative of the student body at large, as valuable and relevant perspectives were not considered during the crafting of the resolution. UCSA reinforces this dilemma with its choice of language that paints a false perception of system-wide unity. The resolution claims that “student governments on campuses throughout the UC system have passed resolutions and been involved in actions critiquing and responding to Israeli policies, which demonstrates campus unity.” Our vivid recollection of personal experiences at UC Berkeley, UCSD, and other UC campuses that have considered similar language to UCSA’s resolution, of dusk to dawn debates, emotionally draining evenings, and strongly contentious arguments flies in the face of UCSA’s statement that the language of its resolution is written on the bedrock of “ideals…that most California students share.” We will not stand by as UCSA leadership disregards the narrative of the experiences of many UC students, a narrative that spotlights the bitter contention on issues the UCSA resolution callously glosses over.

As elected officials across the UC system, we vehemently oppose the UCSA Board’s misuse of power and call upon the UCSA Board of Directors to take the action steps outlined below:

  • Transparently post public agendas in an accessible format henceforth.
  • Ensure that, when speaking on behalf of a specific community, reach out to student leaders of that community.
  • Repudiate statements that marginalize constituents and don’t respect the diversity of all students at UC campuses.
  • Encourage constructive campus dialogue, instead of exploiting divisiveness.
  • Forward this letter to the UC Office of the President, the UC Regents, and the California State Assembly to correct the record and address the misrepresentation of students.
  • Hereafter approach communities directly affected by legislation prior to presentation at Board meetings.
  • Issue a public apology regarding the egregious violations of transparency, marginalization, and misrepresentation.

60 Undergraduate Elected Student Officials currently studying at University of California Campuses have signed on in support of this letter:

Natalie Gavello
Academic Affairs Vice President, UC Berkeley

Jason Bellet
Senator, UC Berkeley

Zhongjie Huo
Senator, UC Berkeley

Ryan Kang
Senator, UC Berkeley

(Tom) Seung Kun Lee
Senator, UC Berkeley

Rafi Lurie
Senator, UC Berkeley

Sahana Rajasekar
Senator, UC Berkeley

Emily White
Senator, UC Berkeley

Joey Freeman
External Affairs Vice President 2011-2012, UC Berkeley
Senator 2010-2011, UC Berkeley

Julia Joung
Academic Affairs Vice President 2011-2012, UC Berkeley

Aviv Gilboa
Senator 2011-2012, UC Berkeley

Noah Ickowitz
Senator 2011-2012, UC Berkeley

Sabina del Rosso
Senator 2010-2011, UC Berkeley

Rebecca Sterling
President, UC Davis

Bradley Bottoms
Senator, UC Davis

Justin Goss
Senator, UC Davis

David Bocarsly
President, UC Los Angeles
General Representative 1 2011-2012, UC Los Angeles

Andrea "Andi" Hester
Internal Vice President, UC Los Angeles
Financial Supports Commissioner 2011-2012, UC Los Angeles

Michael Starr
General Representative 1, UC Los Angeles
Facilities Commissioner 2011-2012, UC Los Angeles

Carly Yoshida
General Representative 2, UC Los Angeles

Yasar Mohebi
General Representative 3, UC Los Angeles

Kim Davis
Academic Affairs Commissioner, UC Los Angeles

Stephen Kraman
Facilities Commissioner, UC Los Angeles

Sahil Seth
Financial Supports Commissioner, UC Los Angeles

Cassarah Chu
Student Wellness Commissioner, UC Los Angeles

Emily Resnick
President 2011-2012, UC Los Angeles
General Representative 2 2010-2011, UC Los Angeles

Raquel Saxe
Academic Affairs Commissioner 2011-2012, UC Los Angeles

Tamir Sholklapper
Student Welfare Commissioner 2011-2012, UC Los Angeles

Adam Brown
Senator, UC Merced

Emily Zisser
Senator, UC Merced

Liam Dow
President, UC Riverside

Sean Fahmian
Bourns College of Engineering Senator, UC Riverside

Megan Crail
Bourns College of Engineering Senator, UC Riverside

David Falstain
Senator and Personnel Chair 2010-2011, 2011-2012, UC Riverside

John Weng
Associate Vice President of Student Services, UC San Diego

Baldeep Dhaliwal
Campus-Wide Senator, UC San Diego

Caeser Feng
Campus-Wide Senator, UC San Diego

Brad Segal
Campus-Wide Senator, UC San Diego

Guy Elezra
Revelle Senator, UC San Diego

Andrew Brian Clark
Freshman Senator, UC San Diego

Karen Liang
Campus-Wide Senator and Senate Chair 2011-12, UC San Diego
Roosevelt College Senator 2010-11, UC San Diego

Benjamin Hass
Physical Sciences Senator 2011-2012, UC San Diego

Mayra Segovia
Internal Vice President, UC Santa Barbara

Jonathan Abboud
Residence Halls Association President, UC Santa Barbara
Senator 2011-2012, UC Santa Barbara

Steven Beringer
Senator, UC Santa Barbara

Kaitlyn Christianson
Senator, UC Santa Barbara

Patrick "Mac" Kennedy
Senator, UC Santa Barbara

Adrian Orozco
Senator, UC Santa Barbara

Tejas Patel
Senator, UC Santa Barbara

Kevin Rudolph
Senator, UC Santa Barbara

Alexandria Choate
Off-Campus Senator, UC Santa Barbara

Kyley Scarlet
Senator/First Senate Pro-Tem, UC Santa Barbara

Angela Lau
Senator/Second Senate Pro-Tem, UC Santa Barbara

Sawyeh Maghsoodloo
Senator 2011-2012, UC Santa Barbara

Shaz Umer
Internal Vice Chair, UC Santa Cruz

Andrew Iliuta
Stevenson College Student Council Chair, UC Santa Cruz

Charlsie Chang
Stevenson College Student Council Vice Chair, UC Santa Cruz

Sean B. Eckley
Stevenson College Student Council Outreach Coordinator, UC Santa Cruz

Barry Jakob
Stevenson College Student Council Representative, UC Santa Cruz

Maximillian Hufft
Crown College Senate Chair, UC Santa Cruz