As a new report details increasing antisemitism on American college campuses, a Jewish UCLA student running for a seat on a judicial council was recently questioned about how she would handle matters in an unbiased way because of her religion.
UCLA sophomore Rachel Beyda’s Jewish background came into question during the meeting as an unidentified student asked her the following question:
“Given that you are a Jewish student and very active in the Jewish community … given that recently … [inaudible] has been surrounding cases of conflict of interest, how do you see yourself being able to maintain an unbiased view … [inaudible]?”
However, the president of the group, Avinoam Baral, quickly stepped in. “The discussion was really discriminatory in nature. I had to step in and say my peace,” said Baral.
According to Baral, multiple members began to question Beyda’s judgment pertaining to matters having to do with Jewish students. After a quick vote, Beyda was denied a position.
After further discussion, a second vote was taken and she was allowed in.
UCLA’s Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, Janina Montero, released a statement, which read in part: “I believe our community is more generous, thoughtful and inclusive than this particular incident would suggest.”
The issue expressed in the above example is one that Jewish advocates say has existed for years. A recent report, “National Demographic Survey of American Jewish College Students 2014 Anti-Semitism Report,” found that over half, or 54%, of Jewish college students in America had either personally experienced or witnessed anti-Semitism in the 2013-14 school year.
The report used information gathered between September 2013 through March 2014. Jewish college students across the nation were asked to answer the question, “Although different people have different views as to what constitutes anti-Semitism, would you say that you have witnessed or personally been subjected to anti-Semitism in any of the following contexts since the beginning of the academic year?” Their answers were recorded, and were used as the focus of the study.
According to the Pew Research Center’s 2013 Survey of U.S. Jews, 22% of Jewish people between the ages of 18 and 29 years reported being called an offensive name in 2011. Only 6% of those people aged 50-64 and 4% of those aged 65 or older reported the same occurrence, showing the problem is one that is mainly faced by younger Jewish Americans.
The report suggests that in order to remedy the situation, colleges across the country should set up a definition of anti-Semitism so they can better assess what does or does not cross the line. An announcement should be made that such actions will be taken seriously by the college, and victims should be encouraged to step forward and report the happenings.
“Without implementation of these recommendations Jewish students will feel increasingly uncomfortable and one can only foresee more Jews forsaking some campuses and transferring to friendlier ones. This trend will undermine universities’ standing and their oft claimed pretensions to be truly multicultural and tolerant societies. It would mean that in the future some campuses would not have the benefit of the presence, ideas and creativity of Jewish students,” writes authors Barry A. Kosmin & Ariela Keysar.