UC regents convene public forum for principles against intolerance

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A working group from the UC Board of Regents held a forum to invite public comment for the Statement of Principles Against Intolerance at UCLA on Monday to hear input on its ongoing effort to revise UC policy addressing discriminatory behavior.

At its meeting, the working group considered whether to adopt the U.S. Department of State’s definition of anti-Semitism, which includes specific examples of what it considers delegitimization, demonization and application of double standards relative to Israel within its definition.

The principles against intolerance were debated by the regents’ Committee on Educational Policy at its September meeting, at the end of which Board of Regents chair Monica Lozano appointed a working group — consisting of regents and UC Office of the President and individual campus officials — to revise the statement of principles. The public forum was intended to inform the ongoing process.

The event was attended by approximately 30 members of the public, including students. It was scheduled to last until 4 p.m. but was closed prematurely at 2:30 p.m. after a number of people who registered to speak failed to attend, according to UCOP spokesperson Rebecca Trounson.

Since the first discussion of the principles in July, various regents and student groups across the university have expressed concerns that an explicit definition was necessary to protect Jewish students from bigotry and prejudice in light of feelings of anti-Semitism on campuses. In January, a fraternity was vandalized with swastikas at UC Davis, whose chancellor now sits on the working group.

Others worry that the State Department’s definition would encroach on academic freedom to criticize international and domestic policies.

The previous draft of the principles defined intolerance as “unwelcome conduct motivated by discrimination against, or hatred toward, other individuals or groups” but did not mention any specific groups. Discussions since its inception, however, have centered on addressing anti-Semitism specifically.

UAW 2865, the union of more than 13,000 UC student workers, has publicly voiced its criticism of the board’s move to adopt the State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism. In a statement issued to UC President Janet Napolitano prior to the July regents meeting, UAW 2865 said the State Department’s definition was so vague that it could be applied to “virtually any criticism of any Israeli policy.”

“It seems abnormal for the university to uncritically adopt a policy from the State Department, (because) the university is meant to be an independent and critical place,” said Jonathan Koch, statewide recording secretary for UAW 2865 and a UCLA graduate student, who was present at the Monday meeting.

The UC Board of Regents will next meet from Nov. 19-20 at UCSF.

Ivana Saric covers higher education. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ivanas26.