“Given that you are a Jewish student and very active in the Jewish community, how do you see yourself being able to maintain an unbiased view?”
According to the New York Times, that was the question asked of University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) sophomore Rachel Beyda, who was applying for a seat on the school’s Undergraduate Students Association Council’s Judicial Board, which deals with questions of university governance.
According to NYT:
The council, in a meeting that took place on Feb. 10, voted first to reject Ms. Beyda’s nomination, with four members against her. Then, at the prodding of a faculty adviser there who pointed out that belonging to Jewish organizations was not a conflict of interest, the students revisited the question and unanimously put her on the board.
The council, presumably, was concerned that Ms. Beyda would not go along with their earlier resolution supporting boycotts, divestments, and sanctions against Israel.
I wonder, if the concern had been another current university campus hot-button topic, like accusations of rape and how to deal with them, would a potential candidate to the Judicial Board have been asked, “Given that you are a female student and very active in the women’s rights community, how do you see yourself being able to maintain an unbiased view?”
When talking about determining whether or not something was a hate crime, would they have been asked, “As a student of color and very active in the civil rights community, how do you see yourself being able to maintain an unbiased view?”
Maybe a helpful faculty advisor would have been on hand to point out the impropriety of that query. Or maybe not.
All I know is, the above felt very, very familiar. And not just because I was born in the former Soviet Union, where the attitude towards Jewish loyalty was, “No matter how much you feed a wolf, he will always look off into the forest.”
It was more because I went to college at San Francisco State University. Where a Malcolm X mural in the quad could be decorated with dollar signs and Stars of David. Where, during the first Gulf War, a shantytown (re-purposed from earlier South African protests) was dubbed “Little Baghdad,” and decorated with rockets bearing the Israeli flag raining down upon it. Where a Yom HaShoah commemoration was counter-protested by The General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS–the campus’ largest organization, which held a majority of seats on the student council and, in one year, managed to pass five resolutions, one of them dealing with student business, the other four condemning Israel). Where, the year I was Hillel president, the San Francisco Weekly published a front-page article entitled, “Spies for Zion,” which helpfully explained how SF State professors were spied on by Jewish students, who passed the information on to the ADL, which was really a front for the Mossad and the FBI. (This, in turn, prompted my own piece, “I was a Spy for the FBI–And I Didn’t Even Know It!” I was apparently so inscrutably devious, I managed to fool even myself.)
Obviously, not all anti-Israel statements are anti-Semitic. (Just like all criticism of our current president isn’t automatically racist.) But when it comes to the above… accusations of a Jewish 5th column in the US? Really? That sounds a wee bit prejudicial to me.
Matters weren’t much better across the bay at UC Berkley, and I gather little has changed in the 20 years since I’ve left California.
This is why, when my 15-year-old son talks colleges (he’s only a high school sophomore, but he loves to worry in advance), I have made it clear to him that SF State and UC Berkeley are off the table. Alas, it seems that in this 2015 listing of America’s Top 10 Anti-Semitic College Campuses, State only came in second, and Berkeley didn’t make the list at all! (They must be so embarrassed.)
The line-up, instead, includes: Columbia University (darn; literally 20 blocks from our house), Cornell (excellent engineering department), George Mason, Loyola, Portland State, San Diego State (best weather in the country), Temple (ironic, huh?), UCLA, and Vassar. So cross them off the list, too.
It’s not that I want to protect my son from the big, bad world. I think anyone who reads me regularly knows that I’m pretty anti-coddle. I can turn cleaning your room into a tale of Cossacks, and thought “Number the Stars” made the Holocaust seem too pleasant.
It’s not that I think attending an anti-Semitic college campus will turn him into an anti-Semite.
Conversely, it’s not even that I’m against all the study time he would lose if he chooses to become a pro-Israel (or, at least, pro-Jewish) campus activist. I know how it is. It’s fun. It gives you a sense of purpose at an age when you’re desperately searching for one. And, if nothing else, it’s an awesome way to meet (Jewish) girls.
Honestly, based on who he is right now, I imagine my son wouldn’t get involved one way or the other. (Stay tuned to see if I’m proven right or wrong!)
What I am against is supporting an anti-Semitic institution with my money. (How all-American is that?) If my son decides that he simply must attend any of the above schools (or any other school that makes it onto my blacklist in the next two years), then he can also figure out how to pay for it himself. (Perhaps he can get himself some of that Jewish money I keep hearing about.)
I believe in free speech. I would never advocate shutting any student group down, no matter how personally odious I might find their message. (I am not, after all, the UCLA Undergraduate Students Association Council’s Judicial Board.) But student groups get their funding from (among other things) the administration. And the administration gets their funding from (among other things) tuition.
They will not be getting it from me.