August 26, 2012 1 Comment
StandWithUs recently launched an online petition drive in support of a July 9 report on Campus Climate at the University of California highlighting campus anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism.
In response to the report, entitled “University of California Jewish Student Campus Climate Fact-Finding Team Report & Recommendations,” some anti-Israeli students and community members – ironically, some Jewish students - decried the report’s findings and said that it’s not representative of the Jewish community at large. They created an online petition denouncing criticism of anti-Zionist sentiment in the UC system.
Unfortunately, this report fails to meet minimum standards for accuracy and sound methodology and offers only a partial view of Jewish life and culture on UC campuses. The report excludes the experiences and values of many Jewish students who are connected to and critical of the state of Israel; it misrepresents support for Palestinian rights and inquiry into Israeli policy as anti-Israel and anti-Semitic acts; and it suggests, in marked contrast to all available campus life surveys / quantitative evidence, that UC campuses are hostile environments for Jewish students. In short, the report distorts campus life, and it includes recommendations that threaten free speech on campuses.
StandWithUs, on the other hand, supports the report and is asking past/current UC students, faculty, and community members to sign their petition. Here’s a brief description of it:
On July 9, 2012, a report entitled “University of California Jewish Student Campus Climate Fact Finding Team Report and Recommendations” was presented by Alice Huffman, president of the California NAACP, and Richard Barton, national education chair of the Anti-Defamation League, to the University of California (UC) President’s Advisory Council on Campus Climate, Culture and Inclusion. The report was commissioned in June 2011 by the advisory council in order to identify both the challenges faced by, and positive experiences of, Jewish students attending UC campuses and to recommend steps needed to make UC campuses more inclusive and welcoming for Jewish students and the community at large.
The report followed a fact-finding process from October 2011 to May 2012, which involved a team visiting six UC campuses–Santa Cruz, Davis, Irvine, Berkeley, Los Angeles, and San Diego. The researchers interviewed students, faculty, and community members to paint an overview of the diversity within these campuses, especially within its significant Jewish student population. It outlined the many nuances and at times diverse political views within the Jewish community on these campuses. The report concluded with a list of recommendations, inviting the UC system to develop model institutional protocols that will ensure that bigotry, intimidation, and undue bias are marginalized, that Jewish students, faculty, and community members’ rights to free speech are protected, and that the university sets clear guidelines for responsible, reasonable debate.
It is extremely unfortunate, but not surprising, that a petition has surfaced recently within the UC system denouncing the validity and veracity of the Huffman/Barton report and calling upon the UC President’s Advisory Council to dismiss the report. Students, alumni, faculty, and parents are invited to sign a petition denouncing the claims and the recommendations articulated in the report. It is absolutely essential that this dismissive, opposing petition be countered effectively and immediately.
The opposing petition reflects the very problems that the report describes: bias and an effort to silence or deny the experiences of many Jewish students, faculty, and community members. Only the report on Jewish students is being criticized for its methodology, even though it used the same methodology as the report on Muslim and Arab students, which was not criticized. The report documented what many Jewish students, faculty, and community members described as their experiences, but opponents are trying to deny the validity of these reported experiences. The opposing petition denies that criticism of Israel can cross the line into anti-Semitism by rejecting the EUMC working definition of anti-Semitism, even though the U.S. State Department and the Office of Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education both adopted the EUMC working definition.
As someone who identified with the Jewish community during my time at UCSD, I lend my full support to StandWithUs’s petition and the UC Campus Climate report. Please sign it and share it.