We, the undersigned student groups, have taken it upon ourselves to respond directly to the email you recently sent out to the entirety of the campus community. While we appreciate your recognition that drafting and distributing the “Joint Statement on USAC Ethics” falls within the realm of free-speech, we take issue with the fact that the rest of the email is effectively an indictment of the statement that promotes an inaccurate impression of its message and intent.
You write that “just because speech is constitutionally protected doesn't mean that it is wise, fair or productive,” and then go on to add that you are “troubled that the pledge sought to delegitimize educational trips offered by some organizations but not others,” and that the statement “can reasonably be seen as trying to eliminate selected viewpoints from the discussion." These claims imply that the point of the statement was to delegitimize groups based on national and/or religious identification, or to attack students who have a certain stance on political issues. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The ethics statement is about holding student leaders accountable. It is about calling on them to become cognizant of their role as representatives for the general student body by disallowing their neutrality to be compromised by gifts and allegiances to off-campus groups, and to realize that their affiliation with the organizations in question is hurtful to various campus communities.
We are pleased that your message showed sensitivity to the experiences of students on campus, but we cannot help but note the silence in regards to the anti-Arab and Islamophobic speech being promoted by the very groups in question.
While everyone is entitled to their own opinion, Islamophobia is hateful and discriminatory, and it is beyond disheartening for us to have to defend our attempts to remind student leaders why their connection to organizations that host Islamophobic speakers and promote and distribute Islamophobic material marginalizes individuals of UCLA’s Muslim community. Additionally, these groups’ ties to anti-Armenian organizations, active roles in lobbying against US recognition of the Armenian genocide, as well as various other human rights violations alienate Afrikan, Armenian and Palestinian students.
Furthermore, we are saddened to see that despite the efforts of groups such as SJP and MSA to raise concerns about the hate-speech, threats and intimidation they have experienced on campus, it is only protecting the integrity of off-campus lobbying groups that warrants this type of intervention. This latest development seems the most recent manifestation of the very issue to which we have been attempting to call attention: that off-campus groups with a particular ideological agenda are exerting an unhealthy influence on campus affairs.
If you truly believe that discourse should remain civil, inclusive, and respectful even when disagreements are present, then surely you will take these concerns into account and realize why it is problematic to issue a message upholding the rights of student leaders to receive benefits from organizations tied to Islamophobia and other practices that marginalize various campus communities. If you truly believe that everyone’s belief, opinion and identity should be respected, then you will understand why it is disingenuous to admonish others for their rightful criticism of student leaders’ connections to such groups and remain silent about these groups’ discriminatory practices. If you truly believe in keeping our campus community as open and democratic as possible, you will understand why holding our student leaders accountable for their actions by ensuring their conduct remains unswayed by the influence of off-campus organizations is integral to the preservation of a just and transparent student government.
Finally, while your message claimed that the ethics statement singled out particular views and groups, in fact the statement called on student leaders not to accept free or sponsored trips from any organizations that marginalize campus communities, whether the organization discriminates on the basis of race, religion, color, age, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, physical ability, mental ability, marital status, financial status or social status, or engage in any other form of systematic prejudiced oppression. We would think this is a sentiment anyone honestly dedicated to fair and equal treatment should be able to get behind, and we find it unfortunate that your email presents the statement as an attempt to discriminate against others when its purpose was to promote the diminishment of discrimination by demanding more tolerant and respectful practices on behalf of our student government.
Thank you for your time.
Students for Justice in Palestine at UCLA
Jewish Voice for Peace at UCLA
Afrikan Student Union at UCLA
Black Pre-Law Association at UCLA
United Arab Society
Armenian Student Association
Muslim Students Association
MeChA de UCLA
Pakistani Student Association
(to add your student group, please email firstname.lastname@example.org)