The resolution presented by Los Angeles City Council member Bob Blumenfield mis-represents the Joint Statement on USAC Ethics. To begin with, the fourth clause of the resolution makes the ethics statement out to be a “tactic of intimidation and harassment,” and the resolution ends by declaring “State Legislative Program Support for administrative action” by the Regents and Janet Napolitano to cultivate new means of addressing “intimidation or harassment of any student,” which include referring “to the proper law enforcement agencies.” This is a disturbing misrepresentation of the issues at hand, as any reader can see by simply reviewing the facts.
The joint statement was crafted by students in response to ongoing concerns by several campus communities that elected leaders were taking trips with non-student lobbying organizations with records of discrimination. Though Blumenfield only cites Islamophobia as a concern, the lobbying organizations in question are also complicit in Armenian genocide denial. The statement, which is non-binding, is a student effort to increase transparency and integrity amongst our elected student officials, and to ensure that elected officials do not maintain relationships with organizations that alienate any student groups while they are in office. We also find it alarming that although students have scrupulously documented and publicized examples of the harassment, intimidation and racism to which we are subjected so routinely, administrative and political figures only see fit to condemn a pledge whose purpose was to call for more transparent and tolerant behavior on the part of our student representatives.
Furthermore, the statement does not rule out trips to Israel - it only raises concerns about associations with external groups of any political persuasion that promote bigotry or discrimination. The reason that the organizations named in the statement were made explicit is because council members had taken trips with those organizations. Moreover, the statement establishes broad criteria that Blumenfield’s resolution simply ignores. These criteria apply to “any outside non-student organization that promotes discrimination 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 which engages in any form of systematic prejudiced oppression.”
Thus, claims that this statement questions the legitimacy of the State of Israel or condemns candidates with pro-Israel views simply do not stand up to basic scrutiny. The statement simply asks that, if elected, council members do not take free or sponsored trips with external non-student organizations that marginalize student communities on campus. Signing the pledge was not mandatory to run for office, and it is non-binding. It is well within the free speech rights of students on campus to circulate a statement which was meant to provide voters more information on candidates’ stances on receiving free trips with external organizations that have a history of promoting discrimination of communities on campus.
The fact that the Los Angeles City Council is now considering delegitimizing the efforts of students to hold their representatives accountable by promoting transparency, integrity, and inclusivity is beyond disturbing. Rather than reaching out to the communities on campus who drafted the statement and are affected by this issue, the Los Angeles City Council is engaging in a completely non-transparent effort to intimidate them and dismiss their concerns. As the Undergraduate Student Association Council President’s Office recently stated, “Students are warranted in asking their elected officials to accurately represent them, and to criticize these calls compromises the very framework of a thriving democracy.” Thus, rather than be intimidated by the LA City Council’s actions, we will continue to press for a student government that is accountable, transparent, and inclusive.
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