A committee of the University of California's governing board has unanimously approved a statement citing anti-Semitism as a form of intolerance that campus leaders should challenge.
The Board of Regents panel voted Wednesday to send the position statement on to the full board for a final vote. It did so after softening a reference in an accompanying report that listed "anti-Zionism'' — the rejection of Israel's right to exist — as another kind of discrimination that didn't belong at the university.
The system-wide principles were drafted in response to pro-Israel groups that demanded that more be done to protect Jewish students.
The declaration would make the University of California the first public university system to reaffirm its opposition to anti-Semitic behavior amid heightened college activism on behalf of Palestinian rights.
The declaration describes the university's role as an institution dedicated to the free exchange of ideas on the one hand, and on the other, a place where "acts of discrimination that demean our differences" are unwanted.
But in response to pro-Israel groups who had demanded that more be done to protect Jewish students, it also twice calls out as anti-Semitism as an example of bias that university leaders have a duty to challenge.
"Anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination have no place in the university," the draft now under consideration reads.
Jewish groups had urged the Board of Regents to adopt the document, which was written by a committee the board appointed to address complaints that an earlier version drafted by UC administrators failed to explicitly condemn anti-Semitism.
"It is not always easy to balance protecting Jews and other minority groups from racism with upholding the First Amendment and academic freedom, but I believe the regents were able to do that successfully," said Max Samarov, director of research & campus strategy for the pro-Israel organization StandWithUs.
Pro-Palestinian groups and faculty members with research specialties in the Middle East are less enthusiastic. They are upset that anti-Semitism is the only type of intolerance specifically mentioned in the principles at a time when Muslims in the U.S. increasingly are being targeted.
They also are troubled by language in a report accompanying the proposed statement that lists anti-Zionism — the rejection of Israel's right to exist — as another form of discrimination that doesn't belong at the university.
"It implies that strong statements against the policies and practices of the state of Israel or other statements that could be deemed 'anti-Zionist' have no place on campus," ACLU Senior Counsel Alan Schlosser said. "As a statement of the official policy of the regents, this could very well chill constitutionally protected speech on this very controversial and current issue."
Discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, gender, gender expression, gender identity, pregnancy, physical or mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, ancestry, marital status, age, sexual orientation, citizenship and service in the uniformed services already is prohibited, under UC policy.
Although the statement encourages university leaders to apply the principles and existing anti-discrimination policies "to the full extent permissible under law," Klein notes that the statement does not prescribe any new sanctions.
"I want to get away from this notion that if I say, 'I hate Jews,' I'm going to be expelled from the university. I can say, 'I hate Jews,'" she said. "What the principles say is the best sanction, if you will, are (hearing) more views."