My Question for Mark Yudof
Last Thursday Mark Yudof, UC President, spoke to the Jewish community in Newport Beach. I was made aware of the event by Gary Fouse who thought it might be a great opportunity for me to share some of my experiences.
The event was strictly controlled. The audience was permitted to submit questions, but not ask them themselves. A moderator selected and read questions -and I quote- “as true to life as possible, with some annotations.” I had submitted a short question online, hoping to get to ask it myself, so that I could expand on it a little. Even my shortened question was not read.
Yudof was funny and personable. But he said very little of substance. My interpretation was that he was telling us, the Jewish community, that antisemitism exists all over, the UC system (UCI in particular) was no worse than anywhere else, and we should just deal with it. He told us that while he condemns hate speech, he can not shut down anyone’s free speech, no matter how much we might disagree with them. He made it sound like we wanted to inhibit the free speech of other citizens, when in fact we are concerned about hate speech that spews hatred of not only Jews and Israel, but America as well.
He said we needed to have more confidence in our students and their abilities to cope and “withstand.” As if our concern is that Jewish students might get brainwashed. He told us, “don’t be defined by the anti-Semites.”
Antisemitism exists, don’t be defined by it, don’t stoop to their level, don’t worry about the students, and there’s nothing we can do.
As a former student, this rankled. I wasn’t worried about getting brainwashed, I was worried about getting yelled at (like my roommate), getting assaulted (like the Hillel president at UC Berkeley), or getting grabbed (like my friend). Many of my friends feared for their grade if they spoke up in class. All of us felt naked, enraged, and vulnerable as we heard the Muslim students chant, “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!”, when they asked us how many babies we had killed today, when their speakers shouted that Israel was an evil, occupying force, guilty of crimes against humanity, and labeled us the new Nazis.
That is what Jewish students should not have to face.
What I would like to have said to Mark Yudof is that he would never have given that speech to a room full of black community members concerned about black students on UC campuses. So why do the Jews deserve that sort of talk.
Here is the question I did not get to ask:
I graduated from UC San Diego this past June. I was very involved with the Jewish community, serving as the Vice President of the Union of Jewish Students. As such, I had a front row seat to the events of this past spring.
During the racial incidents which began with the Compton Cookout, I saw the administration show much consideration to the fears and concerns of the members of the black community. Racism was roundly condemned, and a policy of zero tolerance was enacted. There are debates over whether the Compton Cookout was indeed racist or merely insensitive, but the administration denounced it merely because it had caused anxiety to a small group of students.
Fast forward to spring quarter. The Jewish students expressed to Chancellor Marye Ann Fox and Vice Chancellor Penny Rue that we felt quite unsafe and uncomfortable during Apartheid week. I was one of nine students and a Hillel staff member who met with the two of them. We were told by Penny Rue that making us uncomfortable was part of their job at university. I am positive that she did not deliver this message to the Black community a few months earlier. However, we were assured that there would be heavy security present during Apartheid week. Yet several of my friends were verbally and even physically assaulted, with no intervention from, or even appearance of, a security personnel.
The girl who hung the noose was suspended, despite her heartfelt apology. The girl who voiced support for Hamas, Hizbollah, and Jewish genocide at the David Horowitz event issued no apology-in fact, she complained that she was being victimized-and there was only silence from the administration. Not even a mild condemnation.
Which leads me to the question I would have liked to ask you this past Thursday night in Orange County: Does the UC system have established policies for how it deals with student reports of intimidation, fear, and unease? Or, as I must conclude from my experiences, is it dealt with on a case by case basis, with the Jewish students getting the shorter end of the stick?
As always, it’s just my personal opinion.