This past May, UCR administration was faced with deciding whether or not to remove Sabra brand hummus from its convenience store shelves due to a letter written by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) to Dining Services. Concerned with Sabra’s promotion of the Israeli state and Zionists, SJP urged the department to stop selling the hummus brand as a form of protest against the violence in Palestine and Gaza Strip. For a while, the Sabra hummus disappeared from UCR convenience stores, only to appear later “due to the consideration for student preferences without consideration of political issues raised,” as Vice Chancellor for Strategic Communication James Grant puts it. Though this hummus swap-up highlights not only the Israel and Palestine debate, it also highlights an issue taking place closer to home — how the UCR administration fails to be honest and competent for the sake of its students.
Like ASUCR, the UCR administration is in charge of representing the student body by looking out for said student body’s varied perspectives and needs. While it may never be possible to represent the student body in its entirety, the UCR administration must be transparent in its decision-making to all students. However, such transparency has not been evident in past decisions by the UCR administration. One example relates to the hummus issue itself — the previous school year’s divestment decision. After a long process. the 2013-2014 ASUCR board passed the divestment or senate resolution 18 (SR 18) in promotion of discontinuing any relation to “companies that allegedly profit from human rights abuses against the Palestinian people,” yet this was not followed through at a higher administrative level. Despite students actively voicing their opinions, the UCR administration decided not to divest from such companies and not to divulge all the reasons for their inaction; the UC stated “they will not divest from companies unless the United States government declares a foreign government is committing genocide.”
While the letter entitled “Statement of Divestment” gave a clear statement of the University of California’s stance on divestment, it failed to be as transparent as it could have been on such a volatile issue; similar situations can be witnessed in the latest ASUCR debacle where the UCR administration apparently intervened in the election proceedings. The UCR administration could have authorized public access to notes or minutes on the meetings held in regards to the divestment issue last year. A simple letter allows for the administration to state their actions and allows for students to speculate on decision making, especially if the wording and language of the letter is excessively vague.
A similar situation occurred with the Sabra hummus switch-up when the university stated that it based its decision making upon proper consideration of the “student taste preferences.” However, there has yet to have been any release on how the UCR administration arrived to such a conclusion. This statement becomes even more concerning when it appears that many UCR students weren’t aware of the switch between hummus brands, nor the politics behind it.
How can the UCR administration gauge student taste preferences if the UCR students were not even aware of the issue? Without evidence on how they reached their conclusions, such as research, the UCR administration casts itself in doubt because their actions are not transparent to the students. The statement of how the decision was made due to preferences in taste can be easily perceived as a cover-up on how the administration does not wish to involve itself in the political debate concerning Israel and Palestine. This could be solved if future administrative decisions/meeting were published in the form of notes or video recordings that are accessible by UCR students; this can not only demonstrate transparency, but also that the administration is a competent representative of student interests.
The UCR administration must also be able to instill confidence in those it represents so that they can be trusted to take on decision making. The administration’s indecision on selling or not selling the Sabra brand hummus could mean that they are not competent for such a task.
The UC school system is going through a stressful time as of late due to events such as the tuition hike looming over the heads of everyone involved. Students are growing more and more concerned over the administration in charge of their tuition as they are forced to possibly pay higher fees than ever before. Confidence within administration is highly needed at this time. Even small actions like flip-flopping on a hummus brand tied to students’ concerns and volatile politics can damage any confidence the students have left. It leads students to believe that the administration merely jumped into the decision without thinking or are not qualified to have such power. Again, even if the UCR administration flip-flops on future decisions, it can still maintain students’ confidence by demonstrating transparency in all of its actions via published material.
While we are not calling for a direct decision on the hummus issue that has spread itself thin, we ask that the UCR administration begin to be more transparent and firm with their decision making in the future. Harder situations like the tuition stall and ASUCR controversy will come into play as the next school year comes along and we as students need to believe in our university administration to pull through. So, please do so.