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On Saturday, March 7th, a bus full of University of Oklahoma SAE fraternity members chanted disgusting racism. Someone filmed a 20-second clip of it on their phone. The following day, the video appeared on the Internet, and quickly became viral, worldwide. On Monday, the school severed all ties to the frat.
On Tuesday, two of the students from the video were expelled. Even though the school’s administration acted swiftly and harshly, there were multiple protests & marches. The school’s football and basketball teams and coaches gave the actions even more attention. None of the outrage displayed could stop a highly-recruited football player from decommitting from Oklahoma. Many are saying this requires a “national dialogue,” so we certainly haven’t heard the end of this story.
Nearly a month earlier — and halfway across the country — a UCLA student was applying for a position on the student council’s judicial board when she was asked this question:
“Given that you are a Jewish student and very active in the Jewish community, how do you see yourself being able to maintain an unbiased view?”
On February 19th, The College Fix covered the story. While not MSM-level attention, it was good that the story was being reported.
On March 5th, a full 23 days later, The New York Times got around to covering this story.
Imagine: “Given that you are a black student…” or “Given that you are a gay student…” or “Give that you are a Muslim student…”
The backlash would be as immediate and severe as what happened at the University of Oklahoma, possibly even harsher. This was not leaked hidden video of drunken frat boys chanting racist slogans on a bus somewhere. This was the UCLA student council, conducting an official meeting on-campus.
Thankfully, sanity prevailed, the student was unanimously approved, people were criticized, and apologies were made. But there were no protests on the quad. Dozens of UCLA students didn’t march with duct tape over their mouths. No Bruin player on any sport held hands with a coach to express displeasure.
Anti-semitism on college campuses is a scourge that gets worse with each passing year. According to The Louis D. Brandeis Center:
Over 50% of Jewish American college students report that they experienced or witnessed anti-Semitism on their campuses during the 2013-2014 academic year. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has announced that campus anti-Semitism “is a serious problem which warrants further attention.”
The organization Jew Hatred on Campus released The 10 Campuses With The Worst Anti-Semitic Activity. Number 9: UCLA.
Stories like what happened at UCLA are a constant occurrence, and most times, never garner any national press attention. I’d call for a national dialogue, but I don’t like silence.
UPDATE: As I was writing this piece, I discovered that on March 10th, UCLA passed a resolution against campus anti-Semitism. According to Buzzfeed:
The resolution stood against, among other points, making stereotypical or dehumanizing allegations about Jews as well as “accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interest of their own nations.” It passed 12-0 Tuesday night at the meeting of the Undergraduate Students Association Council.
This is a positive development, and I can only hope that other college campuses follow suit.Published in Culture, Education
My story is worth repeating since it’s topical.
When I was in law school 1987–1990, divesting from South Africa over Apartheid was the hot topic. Nothing is cut and dry about divestiture because there is a good argument to be made that it hurts the people well before and for much longer than it hurts the government.
The Federalist Society set up a debate. They invited the South African Ambassador to debate a gentleman whose name escapes me now, but he was an activist who was touring college campuses and he was the pro-divestiture voice. Obviously the Ambassador was anti-divestiture. Both men accepted the offer.
I was asked to be the moderator, along with a representative from the campus ACLU club, who the Federalists were good enough to include.
The Black Student Union threw a fit at the idea that the South African Ambassador would step foot on campus.
I thought I would be a peacemaker and offered to meet with the BSU. My hope was to convince them that no one would let the Ambassador come and just give a hate filled speech. The whole purpose of the debate was to challenge him, and frankly to challenge the other side too, so we could vet the issue thoroughly. I wanted to make sure they knew that neither side would get a pass.
My meeting didn’t go so well. All I can recall was a rush of people toward me, fingers in my face and lots of yelling about racism. I felt awful. These were my classmates and in that regard I cared about them. I couldn’t get a word in edgewise.
The Dean of the Law School simply cancelled the debate (the Federalists were the only student group without a faculty advisor to stick up for them – imagine that).
To this day I couldn’t tell you if divestiture is a good or bad idea. I never got a chance to learn about it.
I am not familiar with the allowable sorts of questions one may ask a prospective jury member, but I think such a direct question about a candidate’s religious beliefs and activities would be out of bounds in a job interview in any business in America, and that it would be a good idea to find another way to inquire as to whether or not the candidate is a religious bigot who is incapable of judging others fairly, especially in light of the questioner’s apparent belief that there is one religion in particular which is problematic in that regard.
Reading both articles that were linked to in the OP makes it very clear that the offending question was only the tip of the iceberg in this case.
At some point in the proceedings, the young woman was sent from the room, and there followed a heated 40-minute ‘debate’ about her qualifications which centered solely on her religion as a ‘conflict of interest’ and a disqualifying factor. At some point, the first vote was held, and it was a “No.” Then a faculty adviser with some sense seems to have intervened, and the students voted again, this time with a different outcome.
Negeen Sadeghi-Movahed, the Transfer Student Representative, is quoted as saying, during the debate, “I definitely can see that [Rachel Beyda is] qualified, for sure,” and also “For some reason, I’m not 100 percent comfortable, I don’t know why.”
Poor Negeen. I could offer a suggestion that might help her understand her discomfort, but best not, I think.
That being said, UCLA itself seems to have responded impeccably in this matter. Good for them. I hope the kids learned something.
I don’t think the problem is that she’s the ‘activist.’ (If she even is).
I think the problem, as has been pointed out in other comments, is that the questioners are the activists, and that they are the ones who can’t see past their own prejudices.
It’s just another classic example of, “If you want to know what the other side is up to, just look at what they are accusing us of doing.” That’s all.
#32 and #33 She
I wish I could “Like” your observations a million times over.
Tommy and everyone, for your reference:
Also Tommy — I would submit that your jury-selection analogy is flawed — not rendered useless, but more limited in its usefulness than you might have considered — for reasons discussed in this earlier coverage:
In other words, part of the dynamic here is a very real potential for a chilling effect on other Jewish/Jewishly active students (and only on them) where they might otherwise have considered running for campus office(s).
I’m certainly willing to be persuaded otherwise by you, but with regard to jury-selection by contrast, I can’t imagine that the questioning involved can tend to have any seriously analogous chilling effect on this or that ethnic group, religiously-identified group, or whatever.
(Yes, I know it’s “Jury *Duty*” and not “Running for Jury Participation.” That said, when your typical Mordechai or Esther from Passaic or Teaneck fill out the forms at the courthouse when preliminaries are underway, perhaps they might ask to be exempted due to family exigent circumstances, or undue economic stress on their solo-proprietor businesses, or the like — and not because they’re Jewish and they fear being seen, by everyone else, as stirring things up and being needlessly needlessly provocative by virtue of being in the active jury pools.)
Returning to the idea of disproportional coverage, as troubling as the student debate is (and I do think it’s troubling) I’m not surprised, for reasons that are fairly sad: the frat boys put Oklahoma’s reputation and money on the line.
Football in Oklahoma is, shall we say, slightly more of a driving force in daily life than the UCLA student judicial board is in California. Frat boys causing you recruits? Serious business. I wouldn’t be surprised if the booster clubs were participants in the marches, so important was the “we’re not racists” message. As for UCLA- look how quickly we bogged down in the details. The story has no legs for a mass media audience.
So while I actually find the UCLA video more insidious (the SAE guys are the ones you tend to be able to spot and the judicial board thinks they’re making an informed decision) I’m not surprised one got more coverage.
What if it were reversed, and it was some other board member who put the question to a BDS activist who was applying for the position. Would it still be an illegitimate question?
I don’t think it’s ever a good idea to ask ‘have you stopped beating your wife’ questions in an interview of this sort. Some areas (such as religion, sexual orientation, or family aspirations (“What do you think are your prospects for long-term success in this job given the fact that you just got married and may become pregnant in the next several months?”), are legally proscribed no-go zones. There are policies in place (I am assuming), and, presumably, a ‘job description,’ or some other articulation as to how the position this young woman was interested in should be carried out.
It is the job of the interview panel to ‘hire’ the most qualified candidates. If they don’t comply with the policies and guidelines in place, and are making a travesty of their work, then they should be removed. Pretty much like real life. And I think it’s good that these college kids got a taste of real life.
If the interviewers want to think up a scenario, present it to the candidate, and say, “what would you do in this situation?” and then determine that her response is compliant with, or is not compliant with, the policies and guidelines, then that would be an acceptable sort of question.
(Hint to anyone contemplating a job interview: whenever you are set up with the above sort of question, it’s always a good idea to start out by saying, “Well, first I would make sure I was familiar with the policies governing such matters, and I would make sure that I followed them.” Then some discourse during which you present some unimpeachable opinions, and you’re past it).
But framing a question on the basis of someone’s religion, or other extremely personal and closely-held belief, and then making one’s determination as to suitability for the job based solely on the answer to it, (or more likely, what you are convinced is the ‘real’ answer to it, no matter what the candidate says) is never a good idea.
Isn’t a “what would you do in this situation” type of question really getting at the same thing, though? I suppose putting it that way could be more effective than trusting someone to generalize about their own ability to be objective, but the underlying intent is the same.
Or sometimes the underlying intent is an -ism. In that case, though, why ask any questions in that direction at all? I suppose some people are so -istic that they just can’t resist throwing daggers, while others are so comfortable in their environment that they blithely assume their -ism to be SOP more broadly.
I’m not arguing this case in particular; I trust that you’re correct about the particulars. However I’m not exactly convinced that this question is always illegitimate. I’m also not convinced that political “stacking” is illegitimate. Isn’t that the nature of politics?
Sometimes it does matter how you ask the question. Your purpose, as an interviewer, is to find out if candidates have the qualifications to do the job and if they meet the other requirements listed. Giving them a scenario and asking them what they would do sheds light on how they would perform without going in an inflammatory, and possibly illegal, direction like, “Since you’re a Jew . . .
Change the venue of the situation to an explicitly Christian college for a moment, and imagine a question that starts out “Since you’re gay, and since we see that you regularly participate in the annual Gay Pride parade . . . “ and is then followed by 40 minutes of debate during which several members of the interviewing committee express repeated reservations about this student’s ability to fairly perform the duties required, in say, a campus flap over a speaking invitation to a supporter of traditional marriage, with the debate and ‘concerns’ based solely on the ‘conflict of interest’ caused by the candidate’s observed sexual orientation. (Something tells me that would have been a much bigger story).
Or, again, in a more typical institution of higher learning these days, “Since you’re a conservative who campaigned openly for Tom Cotton for Senate . . .” and is then followed by 40 minutes of debate during which several members of the interviewing committee express reservations about this student’s ability to fairly perform the duties required in, say, a campus ‘free speech’ case, based solely on the ‘conflict of interest’ caused by the candidate’s observed political views.
Again, I think this story says much more about the biases and intolerance of the interviewers than it does about the candidate. It’s a question with no other purpose than to eliminate the candidate, because there is no way candidates can answer it in a satisfactory manners. An answer like, “I couldn’t be fair and impartial,” would doom them. An answer like, “My personal life is my personal life, and I can put it aside in order to faithfully carry out the policies and adhere to the guidelines required in this position,” is viewed with skepticism and distrust by those who have their own axes to grind.
For these interviewers, many of whom seem to have brought their hammers, everything’s a nail.
I hope that one or two of them may have learned that everything isn’t a nail, and that not every human interaction needs to be viewed, ad nauseam, through the skewed prism of their own world view. If so, that’s a lesson that will stand them in good stead.
I understand the question, but not sure what is the point of it. This was a real case of discrimination that happened last month, in Los Angeles, at what many would say should be a bastion of open thought and dialogue, UCLA.
These students are on a board that has control over campus student policy and implements decisions that effect the experience of tens of thousand of university students, ALL who earned a valuable spot at UCLA.
Apparently it’s now stacked with BDS activists who have a litmus test for who does and doesn’t get selected to be on the Judicial Board.
If we are to suggest that this board should be made up of entirely BDS activists, then we know that this is a biased group who have an agenda and should marginalize them as necessary.
But it isn’t. The board remains a voice of ALL students, so beyond a member calling her a “dirty Jew”, I don’t know how clearer this example of antisemitism can be.
Again, I’m not talking about this particular case. I believe all of you on the particulars and the motivation behind the questioner.
It’s been argued that the question itself is illegitimate. I’m not so sure about that and I’m trying to discuss it to see if I can figure out the contours of it since I think it’s more complicated than simply yes or no.
It’s also been argued that stacking or bias is morally wrong (at least that’s my inference). I’m not so sure about that either. I think this is even more obvious than my other question. We don’t condemn Republicans in congress for appointing their own members as committee chairmen over currently-seated and just as qualified Democrats. We don’t condemn presidents for appointing judges or cabinet secretaries whose viewpoints align with the president’s. So I’m trying to figure out whether you’re really coming out against wielding political power this way, or is it that you’re just coming out against the BDS doing so (in addition to the general lamentation that BDS is in a position of political power to begin with).
I think my last question answered this. If this was the Young Republicans or Black Student Association then your point is correct. The Judicial Board is not political nor should it be. There are so many subgroups of students on a school the size of UCLA, there can’t be any bias, other than a pure interpretation of student policy.
Other than the electoral process to get there, the presidency, legislature, and judiciary shouldn’t be political either in the sense of playing favorites; these institutions are not similar to the Young Republicans or Black Student Association governing themselves. They are more similar, I take it, to the body relevant to this particular case. Yet who gets placed in those positions certainly matters beyond paper qualifications and judgement will undoubtedly come into play.
In my law school, The Federalist Society and the College Republicans chapter were told by the administration that we could only have debates or panel discussions so that the leftist viewpoint would be included. No individual conservative speakers would be allowed.
No leftist group was under such orders.
This was the pre-FIRE, pre-internet era.
Our events were sufficiently well attended that we embarrassed the left. At one point after we announced an event and the speakers, the gay and lesbian group asked to cosponsor.
That brings us back to the questions to this girl. The thing that made it most unreasonable was that such questions were not asked of others. In fact, the way things usually work in identity politics, others on the board likely got their positions precisely because of their biases. I would wager that a Muslim student who refused to participate in anti-Israel events would have come under scrutiny for that failure rather than would an eager participant.
OK, this may sound weird, but it has been floating around in my mind for awhile: The reason it’s seen as less awful to be against Jews than anyone else is because that’s the way God wanted it. I don’t see any other explanation, it makes no sense.