University of California Governing Board To Vote on Principles Against Intolerance Statement on 9/17; Petitioners Urge UC to Include State Dept. Definition


Contact: Nicole Rosen


Santa Cruz, CA, Sept. 8, 2015 – To combat the rash of anti-Semitism that has plagued the University of California (UC) of late, 2,877 UC stakeholders signed a petition calling for UC to “adopt the U.S. State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism to accurately identify and address anti-Semitic behavior on UC campuses.” The petition will remain open at until the UC Board of Regents meeting on September 17th.

Unlike others, this petition was only open to those who have a direct connection to UC. The breakdown of signatories is 203 UC students; 873 UC alumni; 429 UC donors; 115 UC faculty; 595 UC parents and 1738 California taxpayers. Some of the signers fall into more than one category.

“What’s happening to Jewish students at UC is ugly and frightening, and it’s getting worse,” said Tammi Rossman-Benjamin. “The UC Regents are poised to adopt a statement of Principles Against Intolerance. One of the most serious and highly reported “intolerances” at UC right now is anti-Semitism. The California legislature knows it and has called on UC to condemn anti-Semitism. UC student governments know it and have passed resolutions condemning anti-Semitism. If the UC Regents care about Jewish students, now is the time to address the anti-Semitism haunting our campuses. Without a proper and accurate definition describing what constitutes anti-Semitic “intolerance” on campus, the assaults, harassment and discrimination will sadly continue.”

UC will be discussing the adoption of a statement of principles against various forms of intolerance at its next meeting on September 17. Many Jewish leaders, scholars, groups, students and faculty have stated that before UC can properly condemn anti-Semitic behavior, it must accurately understand anti-Semitism. They have urged UC to include in its Principles Against Intolerance a reference to the full U.S. State Department definition, which recognizes that contemporary anti-Semitism has assumed various disguised forms and, as the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights found, is often “camouflaged as anti-Israelism or anti-Zionism.” The State Department definition acknowledges activity that demonizes and delegitimizes Israel and denies its right to exist as anti-Semitism. It has been used by our government for more than 10 years.

In the past six months, more than 50 Jewish organizations, including ADL, Hillel, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, ZOA and AMCHA have written to UC in support of the State Department definition and have urged UC to adopt it as a standard, campus-wide tool for identifying and educating against anti-Semitism. In addition, thousands of UC students, faculty and alumni and California rabbis, Jewish day school principals and residents have also written to UC leaders, calling on them to adopt the State Department definition.

Just last week, dozens of the world’s preeminent scholars of anti-Semitism, more than 100 UC professors, more than 200 legal experts and counsels from multiple advocacy groups added their voices to this effort. The legal experts and counsels explained that the State Department definition would not violate freedom of speech or academic freedom, as opponents have claimed, and demonstrated why it is a valuable definition for a university setting.

Recently, the California legislature passed a resolution, SCR-35, that calls on each University of California campus to condemn all forms of anti-Semitism. In addition, student governments at UC Berkeley, UCLA and UC Santa Barbara approved resolutions that strongly condemn anti-Semitism. Both the California and student resolutions use the State Department definition to define anti-Semitism.

UC has experienced many incidents of anti-Jewish discrimination this past academic year, including swastikas spray-painted on a Jewish fraternity, “grout out the Jews” carved into school property, a Hillel event for the LGBT community protested and disrupted, flyers blaming Jews for 9/11 plastered on campus and a Jewish student running for office questioned about her eligibility simply because of her religion. UC Jewish students report feeling afraid to tell fellow students they are Jewish, walk to the Hillel house for Sabbath dinner and wear a Jewish star necklace. Many report being bullied, harassed, intimidated and, in some cases, assaulted.

AMCHA Initiative is a non-profit, grassroots-based, organization, dedicated to monitoring, investigating and combating anti-Semitism at institutions of higher education in America.