AMCHA Co-Founders Response to UC President Yudof’s Clarification of UC Position on HR 35

From: Tammi Rossman-Benjamin <tammi@amchainitiative.org>
Date:
September 13, 2012 9:31:49 AM PDT
To:
President <President@ucop.edu>
Cc:
lbeckwit@AMCHAinitiative.org, regentsoffice@ucop.educhancellor@conet.ucla.edu, chancellor@berkeley.edu, chancellor@uci.educhancellor@ucmerced.edu, chancellor@ucr.edu, chancellor@ucsd.eduhenry.yang@chancellor.ucsb.edu, chancellor@ucsc.edu, chancellor@ucdavis.edusue.hellmann@ucsf.edu, provost@ucop.edu, Dan.Dooley@ucop.eduSteve.Juarez@ucop.edu, Marsha.Kelman@ucop.edu, ttorlakson@cde.ca.govSpeaker.Perez@assembly.ca.gov
assemblymember.halderman@assembly.ca.gov
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Subject:
Responding to UC’s position on anti-Semitism resolution

Dear President Yudof,

Thank you for your response below to our letter requesting that you clarify the University’s position on the unanimously-approved State Assembly resolution (HR 35) condemning anti-Semitism on California college and university campuses.  We especially appreciate your sharing with us the letter you sent to the resolution’s co-author,  Assemblywoman Linda Halderman, in which you state that, except for one small part, “the University can support fully the measure,” including HR 35’s description of the serious problem of anti-Jewish bigotry on California campuses and two of its recommendations:

  • increasing efforts to swiftly and unequivocally condemn acts of anti-Semitism on campus;
  • utilizing existing resources, such as the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights’ working definition of anti-Semitism, to help guide campus discussion about, and promote, as appropriate, educational programs for combating anti-Semitism on campus.

We are, however, deeply concerned by your rejection of the resolution’s following two recommendations on the grounds that they are “unconstitutional and an infringement on both free speech and academic freedom”:

  • ensuring that no administrator, faculty, or student group can be in any doubt that anti-Semitic activity will not be tolerated in the classroom or on campus;
  • ensuring that no public resources will be allowed to be used for anti-Semitic activity.

While we understand that there are fair readings under which these recommendations might violate the First Amendment, we believe there are reasonable ways to interpret these recommendations as completely consistent with the First Amendment and that, as a public official entrusted with ensuring the safety and well-being of all UC students, including Jewish students, it is your moral obligation to do so.  Moreover, we believe your unwillingness to support these recommendations sends a very troubling message to the Jewish community, for the following reasons:

1) You and other UC officials have already demonstrated that it is possible to implement the first of the recommendations you reject without violating the First Amendment or academic freedom.  Here are some examples:

  • In a statement you made on March 5, 2010, following incidents of racist bigotry at UCSD, you said: “The bottom line is this: We will not tolerate racism in any form, and we will not hesitate to act to eradicate it whenever and wherever it arises.”
  • In response to the same racist incidents, UCSD Chancellor Maryanne Fox said: “UC San Diego will not tolerate racist actions.”
  • In response to racist graffiti that had occurred on his campus, UCSC Chancellor Blumenthal wrote: “I want to be clear: There is no place on this campus for racial intolerance or hate of any kind…I am committed to a zero-tolerance policy regarding racism at UCSC.

In each of these examples, you and the UC chancellors did not hesitate to state that the University of California would not tolerate racist activity anywhere on campus. Why, then, do you reject the State Assembly’s unanimous call for University leaders to ensure that “no administrator, faculty, or student group can be in any doubt that anti-Semitic activity will not be tolerated in the classroom or on campus”?

2) You and other UC officials have already shown that it is possible to comply with federal and state anti-discrimination laws and to ensure that no University funds are used to support discriminatory behavior without violating the First Amendment, which is consistent with the following statement from the UC policy on sexual harassment: “freedom of speech and academic freedom are not limitless and do not protect speech or expressive conduct that violates federal or state anti-discrimination laws.”  For example:

  • In the wake of anti-African American incidents at UCSD in 2010 that included the utterance of racial slurs on a program of the University-funded Koala media outlet, and which resulted in an investigation of UCSD by the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education for possible violations of Title IV and Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, neither you nor UCSD administrators mentioned the First Amendment rights of the students who worked at the Koala media center, even though that center was shut down and its University funding suspended.
  • When the UC Berkeley Republicans held a “diversity bake sale” and were threatened by the student government with revoking their funding for violating the ASUC’s constitution, which states that the student senate “shall not fund any activity or group which discriminates against any student by race, color, religion, marital status, national origin, sex, age, sexual orientation, physical disability, or political activity…” neither you nor any UC Berkeley administrator mentioned the free speech rights of the Republican students or challenged this statute of the ASUC constitution as a violation of the First Amendment.

Nevertheless, despite the fact that Jewish students are unambiguously covered under Title IV and Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, you seem unwilling to recognize the perpetration of anti-Semitic acts as a form of discrimination against Jewish students actionable under federal law, but instead defend the rights of the perpetrators of these acts to freedom of speech or academic freedom, and allow those who engage in anti-Semitic behavior to receive University funds.

3) Given your willingness to express a zero tolerance policy for racist activity and to allow University funds to be withheld in the case of those who perpetrate racist bigotry, your unwillingness to do so in the case of anti-Semitism leads to the perception that the University of California operates according to a double standard which discriminates against Jewish students, making them significantly more vulnerable to harassment and intimidation.

In light of the points we have raised, we urge you to reconsider your position on HR 35 and to issue a public statement in support of the resolution and the University of California’s commitment to carrying out all of its recommendations.

As previously, we are copying the leaders of the California Jewish community, who are as eager as we are to know whether you will heed the recommendations of this important declaration condemning campus anti-Semitism, unanimously approved by the California State Assembly.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin
Lecturer, University of California at Santa Cruz
Co-founder the AMCHA Initiative
Tammi@AMCHAinitiative.org

Leila Beckwith
Professor Emeritus, University of California at Los Angeles
Co-founder the AMCHA Initiative
Leila@AMCHAinitiative.org

CC:
UC Regents
UC Chancellors
Provost Dorr
Senior Vice President Dooley
Associate Vice President Juarez
Secretary and Chief of Staff Kelman
California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson
Speaker of the State Assembly John A. Perez
State Assembly Members who introduced and co-authored the resolution regarding campus anti-Semitism
California Jewish community leaders

BCC:
Members of the Jewish Community

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On Wed, Sep 5, 2012 at 9:56 AM, President <President@ucop.edu> wrote:

Dear Ms. Benjamin and Professor Beckwith:

Thank you for your email of September 4 regarding HR 35, Assembly Member Linda Halderman’s resolution on anti-Semitism on campus, which the University neither supported nor opposed.

I am pleased to have this opportunity to clarify the University’s position with respect to this bill, and I attach for your information a copy of my letter to the author of the resolution, Assembly Member Linda Halderman, explaining the University’s concerns and offering alternative language.

As you can see, in it I note that while the University of California takes very seriously its responsibility for protecting the rights and safety of all of our students, including Jewish students, we were concerned about the italicized language in the following provision:

“WHEREAS, While these actions are important steps, strong leadership come from the top remains an important priority so that no administrator, faculty, or student group can be in any doubt that anti-Semitic activity will not be tolerated in the classroom or on campus, and that no public resources will be allowed to be used for anti-Semitic or any intolerant agitation;”

Based on a review by the UC Office of the General Counsel, we believe that such a provision would be found to be unconstitutional and an infringement on both free speech and academic freedom.

We then offered the following alternative language:

“WHEREAS, While these actions are important steps, strong leadership come from the top remains an important priority so that no administrator, faculty, or student group can be in any doubt that intolerance and bias, including anti-Semitic activity, are strongly condemned and will be addressed within the constraints of the First Amendment.”

I regret that the suggested language was not included in the final resolution.

 

Sincerely yours,

 

Mark G. Yudof

President

 

Attachment

cc:
The Regents of the University of California
Chancellors
Provost Dorr
Senior Vice President Dooley
Associate Vice President Juarez
Secretary and Chief of Staff Kelman