August 20, 2019

StandWithUs Calls on UCLA to Address Anti-Semitism on Campus

Photo from Flickr.

StandWithUs called on UCLA Chancellor Gene Block and Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Jerry Kang to take action against the “disturbing trend of anti-Semitic incidents at UCLA” in a May 24 letter.

The letter, which was written by StandWithUs CEO and Co-Founder Roz Rothstein, Saidoff Legal Department Director Yael Lerman and Center for Combating Anti-Semitism Director and Counsel for Legal Strategy Carly Gammill, recounted San Francisco State University Professor Rabab Abdulhadi’s May 14 guest lecture in a UCLA anthropology class where she called Zionists white supremacists.

These statements were not merely anti-Israel, but antisemitic in that they allegedly characterized all Zionists as white supremacists desiring a wholly Jewish world and willing to engage in ethnic cleansing in order to attain that goal,” Rothstein, Lerman and Gammill wrote in a joint statement.

When student Shayna Lavi tearfully told Abdulhadi that she was offended by her characterization of Zionists, “Abdulhadi silenced her, then repeatedly singled her out for scolding and belittling in front of the entire class for the remainder of the lecture.”

Rothstein, Lerman and Gammill noted that anthropology professor Kyeyoung Park “apparently turned away and refused to make eye contact with” Lavi, and Park reportedly asks “called out only this student by name for the next two classes – with over 100 students present – and then complained that Park is now part of an investigation because of this student’s interaction with Abdulhadi.”

They called this incident “part of a disturbing trend of anti-Semitic incidents at UCLA,” citing several incidents that have occurred at UCLA since 2012, including when “UCLA student Rachel Beyda faced anti-Semitic questioning about her Jewish background during a routine student government judicial confirmation hearing” in February 2015 and when pro-Palestinian protesters disrupted a Students Supporting Israel in May 2018.

This pattern of anti-Semitic activity at UCLA, combined with your administration’s indifference to taking substantive action to deter further misconduct, violates UCLA’s nondiscrimination policy and satisfies UCLA’s definition of harassment,” Rothstein, Lerman and Gammill wrote, which is defined as “[C]onduct that is so severe and/or pervasive, and objectively offensive, and that so substantially impairs a person’s access to University programs or activities that the person is effectively denied equal access to the University’s resources and opportunities.”

They also argued that Park violated UC Faculty Code of Conduct requiring that professors “avoid any exploitation, harassment, or discriminatory treatment of students.”

“By inviting Abdulhadi to speak and permitting an anti-Semitic diatribe, blatantly ignoring Abdulhadi’s harassment of one of her Jewish students, and continuing to harass the student about the incident—in front of the entire class, no less—Park has violated the faculty code of conduct with respect to harassment and discrimination,” Rothstein, Lerman and Gammill argued.

They urged Block and Kang to condemn the Abdulhadi incident in a statement and “to investigate this matter fully” and “take all necessary steps to protect [the university] against legal liability that could result from ignoring this pattern of discrimination on your campus and the detrimental impact it is having on the Jewish members of the campus community. Further, we are resolved to take all appropriate legal action if any student or faculty member suffers from related discriminatory and/or harassing behavior.”

Rothstein, Lerman and Gammill gave Block and Gammill a June 7 deadline. The university has not responded to the Journal’s requests for comment.

UPDATE: UCLA’s Executive Communications Office replied to StandWithUs May 28 by stating that “allegations of discrimination or harassment have been conveyed to the Discrimination Prevention Office, which investigates reports of discrimination or harassment based on race, ancestry, national origin, religion, and other legally protected categories by any member of our community.”

StandWithUs Co-Founder and CEO Roz Rothstein said in a statement, “StandWithUs awaits the findings of UCLA’s investigation into this latest instance of blatant antisemitism, as reportedly being conducted by the UCLA Discrimination Prevention Office. We trust that the administration understands the urgent need for swift and decisive action here and will act accordingly. We will continue to monitor the situation at UCLA and are prepared to take further action as necessary to help ensure a safe educational environment, including for Jewish members of the campus community.”