Representatives from various student government associations at University of California campuses have penned a letter denouncing the methods by which the UC Student Association passed a controversial resolution last month.
In September, the UCSA board of directors passed a resolution condemning HR 35, a California State Assembly resolution that aims to curb anti-Semitism at the state’s higher education institutions. The UCSA bill argues that the house resolution suppresses legitimate criticism of Israeli policy and, in so doing, unfairly stifles robust political debate.
In a letter dated Oct. 19 to the UCSA board, ASUC Senators Jason Bellet and Rafi Lurie and UCLA Student Body President David Bocarsly called out the student association for a “lack of transparency” and misrepresenting UC students in the process of passing the resolution.
“Many members of the Jewish community 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,” the letter states. “However, UCSA’s resolution capitalizes on an ongoing debate on speech to use rhetoric offensive to many of its constituents.”
The letter was signed by 60 elected student representatives from across the university, including ASUC Academic Affairs Vice President Natalie Gavello and former ASUC External Affairs Vice President Joey Freeman.
In a response letter, UCSA President Raquel Morales apologized for a lack of outreach by the external vice presidents on the board but stood by the passage of the resolution.
“We continue to believe that it was critical for UC students to express our opposition to HR 35 and its impact on free speech and free expression on our campuses,” she said in a letter to the student leaders.
She added that there was no collective discussion of who would be included in the conversation surrounding the student association’s resolution and said it was decided by individual representatives of the board who presented the resolution at the September meeting. Still, she said the discussion should have included more student input, adding that the board will try to consult more students before making decisions in the future.
Bellet, who received Morales’ response Oct. 27, said though he appreciates some of the “small steps” taken to further representation, he is ultimately disappointed by the response.
“There is a big difference between standing for students’ First Amendment rights and against the limitations HR 35 potentially places on those rights (and) taking a stance on a complex geopolitical issue like divestment on behalf of all UC Students,” Bellet said in an email. “The UCSA Board failed to separate the two issues and provide equal opportunity for all stakeholders to participate in the conversation.”
Contact Virgie Hoban at [email protected].