UCLA

ANALYSIS

UCLA’s student government has passed a controversial resolution that calls on the university to divest from companies that allegedly contribute to and profit from so-called human rights violations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip – but don’t take that as a legitimate decision, or representative of the UCLA student body.

The measure successfully passed by a 8-2-2 margin Tuesday night, and Students for Justice in Palestine is already touting it “as a chance to help other communities use this tool as an avenue to attain more political agency,” according to an email it sent supporters Wednesday morning.

“The organization sees this vote as laying a principled foundation from which students from myriad backgrounds can continue to educate and organize in support of not just Palestinian rights but all causes of social justice,” the email added.

This “social justice” coalition is precisely why the measure passed by such a wide margin, despite student body uproar. Certain members of the council, who were obviously connected to certain student groups, voted in favor of the resolution in support of social justice advocacy, claiming to relate to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because of their identities as women, people of color, and people of lower socioeconomic status.

The irony lies in the fact that Israel is the only source of “social justice” in the Middle East. Only in Israel are women accorded equal rights as men. Only in Israel are political dissenters allowed to voice their opinion, even if that opinion questions Israel’s right to exist. In Palestine, homosexuality is punishable by death, and police have been repeatedly accused of using brutal force. It is clear that the side the council chose to stand with was not the side of progress or “social justice.”

Last year, when Students for Justice in Palestine and other student groups tried to pass a similar divestment resolution, it caused such an uproar that after a nearly 12 hour, all-night student council meeting, where hundreds came to give public comments, the resolution failed in a close 7 to 5 vote.

So the activists learned from that, and regrouped. For one, they shut out the public and most media at Tuesday’s vote. Secondly, they expanded the resolution to include more companies to divest from, including Boeing, GE, Caterpillar, and Cemex.

But for those who were allowed inside before Tuesday’s vote, there was a robust debate. During the hearing, which lasted well into the night, representatives from student organizations such as Bruin Feminists for Equality and the Afrikaan Student Union demanded the measure be passed.

Other students, including former Bruin Republican President William Chakar, questioned even the idea of the council taking a stand on such a divisive and international issue.

“It is inappropriate for a student council to decide on an issue that is clearly far out of the scope of any councilmember’s office and duties,” Chakar said.

Student government President Avinoam Baral, an Israeli citizen, who was prevented from voting due to the constitutional fact that presidents only can break ties, said in a tearful statement before the vote that: “Israel is what is right about the Middle-East. … Do not ever, ever frame this conflict as an indigenous versus a non-indigenous person, because when your frame the issue that way, you are saying that I do not actually matter, that I do not have a place in my homeland.”

So the resolution passed, but student opinion is still divided.

Many students, like Shantal Razban-Nia, the Outreach Director for Bruin Republicans, believe that Israel’s security must be taken into consideration when evaluating Israeli actions: “Palestinians have often been the aggressors in their wars with Israel and I think Israel has a right to defend itself. I saw a missile detonating in mid-air when I was on a Beach in Tel-Aviv,” she said in an email to The College Fix.

Even in the face of such a conflict of opinion, the council moved forward with this resolution, effectively taking a stand in support of Palestine in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The move is mainly symbolic, as truly divesting from the companies would require major changes in the state pension system, and such changes could only happen through the University of California Regents.

But some Bruins have had enough of the political agenda entrenched in their student government.

This year, Bruins for Israel called it like they see it, creating a campaign called “Students First” that calls on the student government to “refocuses itself to address relevant student issues rather than wasting time and money.”

“This foreign policy resolution reflects a gross disregard for the appropriate scope of student government, which is supported by student body fees and the California taxpayers’ money,” the group’s petition adds.

By taking a stance on a complex, geopolitical issue the council has done many things.

It has marginalized a portion of the student body. It has glazed over the killing of five Israelis in a temple yesterday. It has pompously stated, in the face of years of international negotiations, that it knows the answer to a foreign policy question that has confounded experts for decades. It has judged that Israel’s right to defend itself is illegitimate. It has shamed American companies for choosing to sell supplies to one of America’s closest allies. And finally, it has divested not only from Israel, but also from its own relevance.

College Fix reporter Jacob Kohlhepp is a student at UCLA and vice president of the Bruin Republicans.

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In a meeting closed to most media, the UCLA undergraduate student government voted to approve a resolution that “calls for the University of California to divest from several companies that some say contribute to and profit from human rights violations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip,” the Daily Bruin reported.

It’s a reversal from a failed – and chaotic – divestment vote in February, with eight officials voting in favor, two abstaining and two voting against, the latter being commissioners for financial supports and academic affairs.

The Daily Bruin estimated about 250 students came to the meeting and said more than 30 students spoke during 90 minutes of public comment. The most high-profile opponents – Bruins for Israel and Hillel at UCLA – “did not make any public comments during the allotted time.”

The undergrad student president resigned his post less than a week before the vote, saying the school was not “made for people like me,” a self-described “Afro-Cuban queer male.”

Read the Daily Bruin story.

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In one of the more melodramatic, accusatory and ideological resignation letters I’ve seen, the president of UCLA’s undergraduate student government stepped down on Friday, accusing the school of being hostile to people of color and insinuating it doesn’t help those with mental health problems – possibly himself.

The Daily Bruin broke the news that Devin Murphy, a self-identified “Afro-Cuban Queer male,” was stepping down just six months after taking the reins of the Undergraduate Students Association Council.

Murphy posted a long Facebook screed explaining why he’s stepping down, and then had the temerity to leave the podium before taking questions:

Firstly, this institution and all others like it around the country were not made for people like me. As an Afro-Cuban Queer male, the toll that the stresses of this campus has had on my mental, physical, and emotional health is nothing any student should ever have to go through – but this is unfortunately something with which many students of color deal. My advocacy for the betterment of our policies and conversations dealing with mental health has been rooted in a deeply personal experience with my own inner-self. UCLA needs to do more to address the climate for students of color on campus. Otherwise, it continues to applaud the tradition that this institution was not made for students of color, students like myself.

Then there’s the standard explanation that the job is consuming too much of his time and energies, depriving friends and studies of adequate attention. Murphy refers to his “ancestors” four times in the letter.

He then gives a shout-out to some organizations he’s worked with, such as the “progressive” candidate slate known as LET’S ACT! and the Afrikan Student Union:

We should never stop the work that our ancestors and communities have started as it is for us to continue and win the concrete victories. Divestment is inevitable. Justice and freedom has never been granted by appeasing the oppressor. As students, we have a moral responsibility to ensure that our tuition is not funding the oppression of Palestinians, let alone any historically underrepresented communities. … Continue the needed advocacy on campus that builds a movement around divestment, against fee increases, surrounding mental health, and dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline. Social justice issues are student issues, so do not let the privileges of others define the activism that is extremely needed on- and off-campus.

And finally, he tells the undergrad student body: “May you always remember that those that come from underrepresented and under-resourced communities are the ones that need you the most.”

Murphy’s divestment reference concerns a vote on a boycott, divestment and sanctions resolution against Israel that’s scheduled for Tuesday in the undergrad student government – and attendance has been restricted, Legal Insurrection said.

Read Murphy’s Facebook post.

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A controversial effort to force students to take a diversity course to graduate has passed an important hurdle, as UCLA faculty voted to approve the mandate in a hotly contested vote.

The College of Letters and Sciences voted 332-303 to approve the diversity requirement last week, paving the way for the measure to move through a few more smaller panels largely expected to rubberstamp the professors’ decision.

A diversity requirement has come before UCLA faculty at least twice before. Both times, in 2004 and 2012, the requirement failed. This is the first time the requirement has passed, and also the first time voter turnout has come close to 50 percent.

Proponents of the measure included Chancellor Gene Block, several ethnic student unions on campus, and many members of the UCLA student government.

Last week as the faculty voting took place, students lobbied for the measure to pass by distributing pledge cards and holding a rally. Its supporters argue the course will help students understand new perspectives and improve campus climate.

But opponents, including a coalition of six professors who openly opposed the requirement in a widely distributed statement, say the requirement’s goals are not academic, that studies purporting to show that such classes help curb racist tendencies are not valid, and that imposing new restrictions on graduation requirements will add burdens to students currently struggling to graduate.

Professor Thomas Schwartz, in a statement to the Daily Bruin, said the requirement will suck “up resources to pay for this piece of ideological puffery.” He also said that the requirement would be used to inculcate students with a liberal agenda.

In addition to the questions of bias, there are also concerns that the requirement will be expensive. Estimates of cost are in the hundreds of thousands, as the requirement will involve creating new classes, training TAs, and reformatting certain classes to fulfill the requirement. In the context of the tight financial situation at the university, this is a deep concern among many on campus.

Indeed, many students also oppose the measure, including Ryan Jones, President of Bruin Republicans and a fourth-year economics student.

“The diversity requirement perpetuates the liberal fantasy that we are still somehow a racist and insensitive society,” he told The College Fix. “It is just another example of liberal indoctrination growing on campus.”

Other students disagree.

“(The signatories) have certain privileges. … They are all white males,” student Jazz Kiang told the Daily Bruin in response to the scholars’ statement opposing the requirement. “I am still angry and quite upset that these professors can say things that have a subtext that is racist.”

According to the text of the proposal, “the course must substantially address conditions, experiences, perspectives, and/or representations of at least two groups using difference frames that include but are not  limited to race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, religion, disability, age, language, nationality, citizenship status and/or place of origin.”

All entering freshman in 2015 and all entering transfers in 2017 would be subject to the new requirement.

Its supporters say they believe that the benefits outweigh the costs. As the issue moves on to the Academic Senate, the diversity requirement will continue to be a point of contention at UCLA.

College Fix reporter Jacob Kohlhepp is a student at UCLA and vice president of the Bruin Republicans.

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ANALYSIS

At UCLA, student fees and taxpayer money is used by the student government to push a progressive political agenda on the campus community during election time, an outright violation of university policy regarding political ethics.

So how do they get away with it? The undergraduate student government uses a technicality to all but endorse controversial liberal ballot measures. They also email students, encouraging them to vote on certain measures, stopping just short of saying: “Vote Yes!”

This situation is playing out now with Proposition 47, which proposes a major overhaul of the California criminal code that would reduce penalties for a wide variety of crimes. It’s supported by many left-leaning activists.

Under university policy, the Undergraduate Student Association Council cannot tell students how to vote on ballot measures such as this, as the student government is funded by taxpayer dollars and student fees.

To get around this restriction, some student council members wrote up a resolution stating the student government “supports Proposition 47 on the November ballot,” and the student government as a whole voted to pass the resolution Tuesday by a vote of 11 to 1. The one dissenter was Heather Rosen.

Because no one who opposes the measure would ever support the proposition on the November ballot, the resolution is mostly a euphemism designed to disguise endorsement as encouraging people to vote.

They essentially use semantics as a loophole to get around university policy regarding political ethics.

In addition to the resolution, student council President Devin Murphy sent out an email to the campus community with a small note at the end specifically encouraging students to vote on Proposition 47.

Although the email does not explicitly encourage students to support the measure, the resolution and the continual highlighting of Proposition 47 all but makes that message clear.

This is not the first time that the UCLA student government has used methods to circumvent the intended purpose of university policy.

In 2012, the council fully endorsed Proposition 30, a controversial tax increase used in part to fund the university. In that instance, the council again claimed that the endorsement was allowed, as long as they never outright told students to vote for the measure. That year, similar wording in resolutions and emails were employed by student politicians.

The email back then proclaimed, in bright red text, that “if Prop 30 fails, the Regents will likely consider a $2,400 tuition increase this year.”

The statement, which is similar to the method Governor Brown used to ransom higher education to pass a tax increase, is a false choice that paints the entire situation as having only two solutions. Again, the council used student fee resources to send an email that presented slanted facts and a subtle push in the liberal direction.

Proposition 47, like 30, promises money toward higher education in exchange for certain tradeoffs. There is a strong coalition in support and in opposition to the resolution.

Yet, in both cases, UCLA’s student government has downplayed the consequences of the proposition and used questionable methods to skirt university policy.

As a result, student fees are being used to push a progressive political agenda. UCLAprop

In response, the Bruin Republicans at UCLA launched a counter-campaign to educate students on the negative consequences Proposition 47, if passed, will have on California’s criminal justice system.

(At right, William Chakar, former Bruin Republican president, speaks out against the USAC resolution during Tuesday’s council meeting.)

The group aimed to educate peers on how the law will affect sentencing for stolen handgun possession, date rape drug possession and repeat offenders at a rally on Tuesday afternoon that also decried the misuse of their student fees.

They also sent representatives to voice opposition at the student government meeting Tuesday evening.

Political advocacy should be restrained within any public university’s student government, because of the use of student fees and taxpayer dollars.

UCLA’s Undergraduate Student Association Council has gone beyond its duties and chosen to misrepresent legitimate political arguments in efforts to encourage student voters to support controversial legislation. And the consequences for California’s intellectual diversity are terrible.

College Fix contributor Jacob Kohlhepp is a student at UCLA and vice president of the Bruin Republicans.

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Psychologists at UCLA have discovered something truly remarkable: Caucasians actually act like human beings when confronted with certain situations!

In this case, they found that when white people were informed they were soon to be a minority in the United States, their support for diversity and multiculturalism … declined.

The UCLA Newsroom reports:

As part of their study, the researchers divided 98 white Americans from all regions of the country — half male, half female, with an average age of 37 — randomly into two groups. One group was told that whites will no longer be the majority in the U.S. by 2050; in fact, this is likely to be true as soon as 2043, according to some projections. The second group was told that whites would retain their majority status in the U.S. through at least 2050. All participants were then asked a series of questions about their views on diversity.

“Whites feel lukewarm about diversity when they are told that they are about to lose their majority status in the United States for the first time,” said Yuen Huo, UCLA professor of psychology and the study’s senior author.

“We see a significant reduction in the endorsement of diversity when white Americans are exposed to current projections of future demographics,” said Felix Danbold, a UCLA psychology doctoral student and the paper’s lead author. “Most Americans view diversity in positive terms, but many white Americans who see the actual demographic projections, and the loss of their majority status, end up being less enthusiastic about it.”

The researchers concluded “that the demographic changes are threatening whites’ sense that they best represent the American identity.”

The results were published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

Read more here.

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