UCLA Student Gov't Releases Statement in Support of Bigotry
Student Government OK with bigoted attempt to prevent students from going on pro-Israel trips
| Daniel Mael |
On Friday, the undergraduate student government president's office at UCLA released a statement blasting university chancellor Gene Block for his condemnation of the anti-Israel "ethics statement" that many candidates for student government signed prior to the recent election. Under the pledge, student government candidates vowed not to take trips to Israel with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and Hasbara Fellowships. Block questioned the initiative via a campus wide email on May 16th.
The press release, titled "Chancellor Block's Response to Joint Statement on USAC Ethics is Overreaching, Misguided," came out swinging: "The Undergraduate Student Association Office of the President finds the Chancellor’s statement to be counterintuitive and a limitation on the free speech exercised by a number of student organizations on our campus, including Jewish Voice for Peace, Students for Justice in Palestine, Muslim Student Association, Samahang Pilipino, Armenian Students’ Association, MEChA de UCLA, and Afrikan Student Union."
Jewish Voice for Peace was named to the ADL's 2013 list of top-10 anti-Israel organizations. Students for Justice in Palestine also made the list and is widely considered a leading anti-Semitic group on campus. SJP members often advocate for the removal of Israel and in support of terrorism.
The student leadership, led by president Devin Murphy, continued perpetuating the lies that the groups in question are questionable and support hatred: "First, the USAC Office of the President would like to address the misconception that Council members would be restricted from attending all trips to the Middle East sponsored by Jewish organizations. The groups listed on the Joint Statement on USAC Ethics were explicitly named due to their history of perpetuating Islamophobia, complicity in Armenian Genocide denial and anti-Armenian hate speech, and marginalization of Afrikan and Palestinian communities. It is imperative for Council members to distance themselves from controversial external groups if USAC is genuinely meant to be a representative student government."
The UCLA student government does not pull punches and proceeds to directly vilify Chancellor Block:
“Second, as stated in the Daily Bruin’s report of their editorial board meeting with the Chancellor, the statement issued by the Chancellor was not a product of student group input. Rather, this was a reactionary response to the recent issuing of ethics statement. As quoted by the Daily Bruin, the Chancellor stated, “The rhetoric was heating up and I thought it was time to say something.” We feel that the Chancellor was misguided in his response without student input and should have solicited feedback from all student organizations involved.
Not only did Chancellor Block act with impulsive haste without engaging in any critical dialogue or conversations, but he also dismissed the legitimate concerns of thousands of students on campus. The USAC Office of the President highly values critical dialogue and solution-oriented discussions, neither of which the Chancellor embodied in his most recent statement.
The Chancellor’s unjustified claims that the ethics statement attacks and disrespects students of particular identities, political ideologies, and religious affiliations mischaracterizes the overall goal of the ethics statement, and moreover is a direct abasement of the identities and ideologies of the students who first put forward the ethics statement. This statement simply calls for a stance on integrity and accountability among all Council members to be cognizant of their affiliations that may marginalize communities on our campus.
Chancellor Block’s wild exaggeration that this ethics statement “[silences] voices,” “[belittles] others,” and compromises “mutual respect and engagement”  reflects a myopic understanding of the statement’s intention. Simply, students are warranted in asking their elected officials to accurately represent them, and to criticize these calls compromises the very framework of a thriving democracy.
Moreover, the Chancellor’s email seeks to invalidate a sound political ideology held by many. As the leading representative for one of the world’s most prestigious institutions that prides itself on tolerance, praxis, and cultural exchange, Chancellor Block doubles back on the essential values of being a True Bruin.
In his statement, Block requested that the "Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs to explore how to better foster political dialogue that is respectful, productive and focused on understanding rather than division. UCLA faculty, students and staff deserve an open environment that encourages vigorous debate without disparagement."
The student body representatives claim that "The joint ethics statement is not meant to prevent Councilmembers from travelling to the Middle East or having certain political views - it merely asks that Council members not to accept free trips from external, non-student lobby organizations that promote discrimination on the basis of race, religion, color, age, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, physical ability, mental ability, marital status, financial status or social status, or which engages in any form of systematic prejudiced oppression" and that "There are multiple Pro-Israel organizations that offer trips to the Middle East that do not perpetuate discrimination, Islamophobia, or denial of the Armenian Genocide."
In a statement on the Aish.org website, Hasbara Fellowships director Elliot Mathias called out the "UCLA thought police" and found the "ethics statement" to be heinous:
“Pressuring candidates to sign this pledge was clearly an attempt to bully and intimidate other students for their political beliefs. It is telling that these groups only targeted pro-Israel and Jewish organizations. This demonstrates that they have no interest in advocating for transparency in student government or any other issue pertaining to the well-being of the general student body. The fact that they only targeted organizations and students that disagree with their political positions clarifies what their true intentions are – to intimidate and bully those that disagree with them.
Mathias continued that it was "laughable" to "make accusations against Hasbara Fellowships and other programs for their content and viewpoints. Israel and the world is facing a dangerous ideology of extremist Radical Islam. Radical Islam has caused terrorism and violence across the globe including today in Nigeria, as well as in New York, London, Madrid, Tel Aviv and beyond."
Ironically, the student government concludes by stating "the very essence of a public university is the free exchange of ideas and information, and debate and dialogue" and requesting that "Chancellor Block issue a statement of apology and additionally reach out to the various involved student organizations to formulate a solution-oriented plan." http://www.truthrevolt.org/news/ucla-student-govt-releases-statement-support-bigotry