UCLA Responds to Shocking Anti-Israel Pledge for Student Gov’t Candidates
May 14, 2014
A pro-Palestinian student organization at UCLA tried to push through two measures designed to disqualify from voting in student government students who had taken trips to Israel sponsored by the HADL, the Hasbara Fellowships, and AIPAC.
Student votes largely defeated the measures, which was good. What discouraged me was that the school administration did not see fit to even make a statement, choosing instead to remain silent and leave the issue for the students to resolve.
I agree that the administration should not waste its time involving itself in the trivia of student government: they have a university to run, and student government on principle is an educational exercise wherein students absorb the rights – and the responsibilities – of life in a pluralistic society.
Yet when student government wanders into the field of intolerance and activities that undermine the principle of fair and equal treatment, the university is bound to make a statement.
It is easy to say “hey, the administration was right. They held back, let the students take care of things, and it all died down.” Fair enough.
Yet had the outcome gone a different way, had students in fact squeezed candidates out because of their viewpoints or their possible viewpoints, the university’s post-facto intervention would have looked unprincipled. Professor Jacobsen at Cornell framed it correctly: the university administration, as the highest authority, should have established the principle of fair and equal treatment, and made clear that it reserved the right to step in if those principles were violated. That would have made clear that student government operates within limits set by the university, and that failing to observe those limits would have consequences.
The administration at UCLA is cowed by political correctness, and as such weakens its role as the ultimate arbiter of the rules of the university playing field. It is the opposite mistake of the one made by UCLA and other institutions in the 1960s, which was to be too paternalistic. The correct course lies somewhere twixt “the heavy hand” and “the absent hand.”