As students have come forward to report discriminatory acts they say have pervaded UC campuses over the past few years, the UC Board of Regents is attempting to find a resolution.
“This is beyond hope, this is an absolute necessity,” said Regent Norman Pattiz as the regents revisited their ongoing discussion about the Statement of Principles Against Intolerance at their meeting Thursday morning.
At its September meeting, the regents’ Committee on Educational Policy presented its draft of the principles against intolerance, which was regarded by many as being too vague because it did not specifically mention anti-Semitism, but which also brought about questions of whether the principles — if they were too specific — constituted a violation of free speech.
Consequently, board chair Monica Lozano announced that the board would convene a working group to revise the statement, the progress of which was discussed Thursday.
“We are committed to the UC’s principle of providing a safe and welcoming and nurturing environment,” said Regent Eddie Island, chair of the working group, during the meeting.
In October, the working group — composed of regents, representatives from the UC Office of the President and individual campus officials — held a public forum at UCLA, where they heard from 61 members of the public, according to Island. On Dec. 1, the working group will be advised by a collection of researchers, scholars and opinion leaders on First Amendment issues.
“The issue of the First Amendment has been used by some as a smokescreen to try and back us down from taking appropriate action to stop these acts of hate,” said Regent Bonnie Reiss during the meeting.
After that, the working group will hold two drafting sessions to amend the statement.
Pattiz said the working group hopes to submit the revised statement by the end of January, so the board may take action as soon as the March regents’ meeting.
“We respond with more outrage and are quicker when the same acts of hate (happen) to other groups than to our Jewish students,” Reiss said, addressing the ambivalence with which she said anti-Semitic acts have been met in the past.
Although much of the discussion around the principles against intolerance has revolved around anti-Semitism, several regents stressed that the principles are intended to be inclusive.
“This is a broad picture of what ought to be happening at the UC,” Pattiz said during the meeting, adding that “it ought to be very clear what we’re striving to achieve.”
The discussion concluded with Regent Rodney Davis’ suggestion that the university go further than adopting a new statement of principles but that the regents also consider developing educational programs on tolerance, similar to those already in place for sexual assault.