Courtesy of UCR Today
Courtesy of UCR Today

The UC Regents held their monthly regents meeting at UC Irvine on Sept. 15-17. The system’s free speech policy became a prominent issue as a first draft to include a statement on the UC system’s position on intolerance was rejected.

According to the proposed statement, “Intolerance has no place at the University of California. We define intolerance as unwelcome conduct motivated by discrimination against, or hatred toward, other individuals or groups. It may take the form of acts of violence or intimidation, threats, harassment, hate speech, derogatory language reflecting stereotypes or prejudice, or inflammatory or derogatory use of culturally recognized symbols of hate, prejudice, or discrimination.”

Many regents felt that the statement was weak, with regent Norman Pattiz critiquing that the draft “doesn’t say anything about anything.” Among these criticisms included that fact that the statement did not include the phrase “anti-Semitism.”

In response to the rejection of this draft, the regents launched a proposal to rewrite its policy statement in regards to free speech and intolerance. As of press time, it is unknown whether the concerns regarding specific discrimination such as anti-Semitism will be included in the new statement.

According to students, such as student regent Abraham “Avi” Oved from UCLA, certain anti-Israeli attitudes encourage anti-Semitic incidents. “The incessant hatred and bigotry that exists on our campuses … has only worsened in the past year,” Oved said.

This proposal came amongst anti-Semitic incidents across UC campuses, which students feel creates a hostile atmosphere. Last year’s incidents include the defacement of a UC Davis Jewish fraternity house and the debate of whether a student’s Jewish heritage affected their ability to remain unbiased in a judicial council position.

In light of these controversies, Jewish leaders have called for the UC system to adopt the controversial U.S. department of state’s definition of anti-Semitism, which includes “blaming Israel for all inter-religious or political tensions.”

Pro-Palestinian groups, however, feel that adopting this definition would be used to quell criticisms of Israel. Liz Jackson, an attorney with Palestine legal stated “This is not about intolerance.This whole thing is about whether criticism of Israel will be permitted on campuses.”

In addition, Jackson states that Palestinian students have felt ostracized on campuses when they have spoken against Israel’s treatment of anti-Semitism. In regards to the new UC statement, Jackson hoped that it would not be used “to silence one side of an important discussion.”

Students such as Pranav Pattabiraman, a third-year economics major, agree with this sentiment, “I think that there should be a definition that states that the campus doesn’t promote intolerance, however banning criticism of Israel limits an important debate.”