ASUCR tables bill aimed to have UCR adopt the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism

Joshua Wang / The Highlander

On Wednesday, Jan. 20, ASUCR held their third senate meeting of the quarter in which the senate tabled a controversial bill submitted by Students Supporting Israel that aimed to have UCR adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism

Members of the student body spoke out against the bill through social media, claiming that the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism promoted Zionism and hindered the free speech of students. According to the IHRA, the working definition for anti-Semitism states, “Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities,” and one of those manifestations may be, “the targeting of the state of Israel.” A number of students criticized Students Supporting Israel’s attempt to adopt this definition on-campus, claiming that it would infringe upon the freedom of speech of Palestinian students and their right to criticize the state of Israel and Zionism.

“I 100% stand against anti-semitism on campus, I would just like them to not use the IHRA definition because it is anti-Palestine,” wrote one student on their Instagram page.

As the lead sponsor of SR-W21-002 Resolution Against Anti-Semitism, President Pro Tempore Orlando Cabalo motioned to remove the resolution from the meeting agenda, stating that he spoke to various individuals on both sides of the debate and decided it would be best to table it for now. 

During Public Forum, one UCR student acknowledged that she was in disapproval of the resolution. She commended the senate for listening to student concerns and vowing to find a new resolution to combat anti-Semitism on campus while also protecting students’ free speech. She added that combatting discrimination on campus is one of her top priorities as a student. 

A UCR alumni and 2020 graduate also spoke out in opposition of the proposed resolution. He thanked the senate for agreeing to table the resolution but proceeded to read the comment he had prepared prior to the meeting. He argued that adopting the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism was also adopting the policies and practices of former President Donald Trump and his white supremicist ideologies. He added that if the senate had agreed with the bill, students could be formally accused of anti-Semitism for repeating the official view of the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, which announced this week that it would begin referring to Israel an an apartheid state

During Public Comment, at the end of the meeting, primary author of SR-W21-002 David Smith expressed his disappointment in the students’ response to the senate resolution. He opposed the comparison made to white supremacy, stating that the definition does not limit freedom of speech because people still have the right to criticize a country for its actions; what the resolution aimed to do was give a clear understanding and definition of what is considered anti-Semitism.

Finally, a UCR student added that she also agrees that there should be better protections against discrimination for Jewish students on campus but she is opposed to the IHRA definition because it equates anti-Zionism to anti-Semitism. 

During Ex-Officio reports, Vice President of External Affairs Vincent Rasso discussed a letter that he and other members of the Executive Cabinet drafted to Chancellor Wilcox and Interim Provost Thomas Smith in response to the Jan. 11 announcement that the University of California plans to host in-person classes for fall 2021. The letter details a list of demands for campus administration regarding academic continuity, COVID-19 vaccine and testing accessibility, student health, wellness and basic needs and addresses concerns regarding policing and campus safety. The letter proposes the establishment of a COVID-19 Impact Working Group tasked to understand the situations students may be struggling with and to expand UCR resources such as the R’Pantry, CalFresh, Basic Needs, The Well and Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). In response, Interim Provost Smith expressed his appreciation for the letter as campus administration begins to design scenarios for fall that best support students’ learning needs and prioritize their health and safety.

Ori Liwanag, campaign coordinator for CALPIRG, updated the senate on their outreach efforts from the past week. Over 1,000 students expressed interest in CALPIRG’s campaigns for winter quarter, and they were able to host their biggest kickoff meeting that the UCR Chapter has ever had with 217 participants in total; this is the second largest kickoff across the state in CALPIRG’s history. 

Vice President of Sustainability Vanessa Gomez-Alvarado explained a large scale initiative grant that she recently applied to on behalf of GCAP, in collaboration with the R’Garden and Agricultural Operations. The $40,733 grant aims to begin commercial green waste composting at UCR in a project called the Aerated Static Pile Compost Project. The project would significantly reduce the university waste, carbon emission and offer agricultural support. The project will occupy unused land located at the Agricultural Operations facilities across from Lot 30. The grant was approved with a vote of 16-0-1. 

During the LRC’s report, the senate approved two resolutions authored by CHASS Senator Mufida Assaf in order to clarify certain rules and regulations regarding internships for credit. SR-F20-003 Proposition to Give Students a Choice in Deciding Between S/NC & Letter Grade Grading Basis for Internships aims to adopt the internship models of UC Davis and UC Berkeley. The resolution states that internships should be evaluated using the S/NC grading system because “it serves as a better representation of the experiences students gain from their internships.” ASUCR will contact the Academic Senate and the deans of every college in order to advocate for the alteration. 

SR-W21-004 Proposition to Include Internships as a Part of Achieving a Position on the Dean’s and Chancellor’s Honor List outlines that the current requirements for achieving a place on the Dean’s Honor List are unclear and suggests that UCR adopt the requirements of UCLA which includes internships that receive a letter grade as eligible. In contrast to the last resolution, only students who choose to have their internships evaluated on a letter grade basis will be able to include it as a qualification for the Dean’s Honor List. Both motions passed with a vote of 17-0-0.

SB-W21-001 Process for the Suspension of ASUCR Committees was authored by Personnel Director Sean Nguyen; its purpose is to create a formalized process for the suspension and reinstatement of committees within ASUCR. Student engagement for the committees within ASUCR has decreased since the start of the pandemic, Nguyen suggested that the personnel director oversee the process of suspending committees that do not receive proper attention or engagement. The committee would have the opportunity to be reinstated if they received adequate engagement in the future. SB-W21-001 was approved with a vote 17-0-0. 

Being their first State of the Association meeting of the quarter, ASUCR’s Executive Cabinet (ECAB) members then provided updates on upcoming events along with their plans for future legislation.

ASUCR President Luis Huerta stated that he has been meeting with various campus entities during winter quarter to advocate for the efforts of ASUCR. He recently met with Academic Senate Chair Jason Stajich to establish communication regarding previous ASUCR legislation meant to improve academic continuity and flexibility for students by requiring that professors record and upload all lectures. Huerta stated that some professors expressed opposition due to the possibility of making mistakes during class that they would not want to have on record. He assured the senate that he will be working with the Academic Senate to continue to advocate for efforts to academic flexibility. Huerta has also been meeting with the Chancellor’s Free Speech Working Group to discuss the use of a campus-wide module to educate students about what is and is not protected under the First Amendment. 

According to Huerta, no decision has been made regarding the Budget and Advisory Committee’s previous recommendation to cut the athletic programs at UCR but he will provide updates as he receives them. He also discussed the allocation of $20,000 to the Short Term Grocery Support program offered by the Basic Needs office, where students in need are able to apply to receive a $50 grocery gift card twice per month.

Rasso updated the senate on his efforts throughout winter quarter as well. On Jan. 9, he chaired the UC Student Association’s board meeting where they discussed important topics relating to students across the UC system. One of these topics was the modernization of the Cal Grant, which currently only covers students who have recently graduated high school, excluding formerly incarcerated students and students who have been out of high school for some time. They also discussed the long term strategy for UC Basic Needs as well as the UC Mental Health Coalition. The Office of External Affairs has many upcoming events planned, including the Students of Color Conference on Jan. 30 to Jan. 31. Rasso will be speaking on a panel at the UC Office of the President (UCOP) Campus Safety Symposium on Feb. 2. On Feb. 4, the vice presidents of external affairs of all UCs will be meeting with UC President Michael Drake to update each other on their efforts.

The Transfer and Non-Traditiional Director Kaitylyn Hall stated that her committee is currently focusing on advocacy for student-parents on campus which includes advocating for Falkirk to become family student housing. 

With ASUCR elections season around the corner, Elections Director Lama Yassine announced to the senate that students are now able to file for candidacy. Yassine and the elections committee created a Candidacy Manual where students who are interested in running can learn more about the ASUCR positions. 

Executive Vice President Natalie Hernandez, provided an update on behalf of the Office of Internal Affairs as well. They have been planning and executing various efforts across social media to bring awareness to mental health resources on campus relating to anxiety and stress. The office is working to create a survey titled “Word of Advice” where fourth-year students will be able to leave messages of advice to first year students and they will continue to add to their Highlander of the Week segment on social media. Hernandez stated that they are also working on a logo rebrand for ASUCR this quarter that encapsulates everything that represents UCR, from paying homage to the native land the campus resides on to highlighting UCRs diverse student body.

During Roundtable and Announcements, CHASS Senator Lizbeth Marquez announced that she has started a new club on campus with the help of a Media and Cultural Studies professor called Transformative Justice at UCR. The new club is dedicated to teaching individuals about transformative justice, promoting alternatives to punishment and policing and providing support for those who have experienced violence, both within the university and outside of it. They are currently doing outreach for new members and encourage students who are interested to reach out to them through their Instagram page

Before adjourning the meeting, President Pro Tempore Cabalo once again thanked all community members for voicing their opinion on SR-W21-001 and stated that he hopes to bring back a resolution that both sides can support.

The meeting was adjourned at 8:23 p.m.

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