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November 2, 2016 4:14 am

Campus Groups on New UC Irvine Recommendations for Combating Antisemitism on Campus: ‘Proof Will Be in the Pudding’ of Implementation

avatar by Lea Speyer

UC Irvine campus. Photo: UC Irvine.

UC Irvine campus. Photo: UC Irvine.

While the University of California, Irvine is taking a series of “good first steps” towards combating antisemitism, the “proof will be in the pudding” of implementation, the heads of two leading campus organizations told The Algemeiner on Tuesday.

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, co-founder of campus watchdog group AMCHA Initiative, and Kenneth Waltzer, executive director of the Academic Engagement Network — a group of American college faculty members who oppose the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement — were responding to a recent UC Irvine report that issued recommendations on how the school can align itself with and adopt the University of California Regents Principles Against Intolerance.

“On the whole, I found this report to be very positive and I’m very pleased that UC Irvine is clearly committing itself to addressing the problem of antisemitism and antisemitic anti-Zionism in all its forms,” Rossman-Benjamin told The Algemeiner. “That said, the devil is in the details in how they will actually implement the Regents policy relating specifically to antisemitism.”

According to Waltzer — who served as an outside expert consultant on the report — the recommendations “are headed in the right direction” and are “particularly positive signs that UC Irvine is committed” to fighting Jew-hatred. However, all eyes will be on the university to “see how it concretely executes” those recommendations.

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The UCI report — published by the Office of Inclusive Excellence under the auspices of Vice Provost for Academic Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Douglas Haynes — focuses on three main areas in which to bolster the school’s response to antisemitism: campus accountability; education and training; and responsive engagement.

Rossman-Benjamin told The Algemeiner she believes “education is the key” to getting to the root of antisemitism on campus.

One of the biggest problems many Jewish students face, she said, is that “the campus administration has really great policies on how to deal with other bigotries, but does not treat the concerns of the Jewish community with the same sensitivity or vigor as other minorities.”

“Student leaders, staff and faculty must be trained and educated in identifying antisemitism and antisemitic forms of anti-Zionism and in addressing them,” she said.

Waltzer concurred. “The line between legitimate forms of anti-Zionism and contemporary forms of antisemitic anti-Zionism must be delineated,” he said. “For example, what happened to Rachel Beyda, a UCLA student who was deemed unfit to serve as a student leader just because she was Jewish — that is out-and-out antisemitism. Similarly, when certain posters appear on campus and recycle medieval motifs of antisemitism behind the banner of anti-Zionism, that is bogus and suspect.”

With the release of the UC Irvine report, the other University of California campuses are on notice, both Rossman-Benjamin and Waltzer said.

“UC chancellors need to look at this courageous and important step UC Irvine Chancellor Howard Gillman has taken and do the same thing,” Rossman-Benjamin said. “We cannot file away the Regents statement and let it collect dust. UC has a major problem with antisemitism — which in large part has to do with anti-Zionism — and for the other chancellors to ignore this would be unconscionable.”

The UC system, as reported by The Algemeiner, has come under fire recently for being among America’s campus “hotbeds” of antisemitism and anti-Zionism.

According to a Brandeis report on campus antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiment across the US, the UC system ranked among the top colleges at which Jewish students “perceive a hostile environment.”

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