If you have a Facebook account, then you are well aware that it is election season at UCLA. The Undergraduate Students Association Council — the governing body of the Undergraduate Students Association — annually holds elections Spring Quarter to elect thirteen student officers and commissioners. Although these UCLA undergraduate representatives may seem inconsequential to the average Joe Bruin, they actually have a significant role. Their contributions to higher level decision-making processes regarding the university mean that their voice is that of the entire undergraduate student population at UCLA. Moreover, each undergrad at UCLA pays over $50 a quarter for this representation and the services it provides. Therefore, it is important that the governing body is one that fully and accurately represents all UCLA Bruins.
This year, three Jewish and Jewishly involved candidates are running for office, and all three are running with the Bruins United slate. Avinoam Baral, a third-year Human Biology and Society major, is running for Internal Vice President; Aurelia Friedman, a second-year Political Science major, is running for External Vice President; and Heather Rosen, also a second-year Political Science major, is running for Financial Supports Commissioner.
When asked about why they chose the BU slate, their responses were unanimous: its inclusiveness and enthusiasm. Rosen explained, “It provides equal opportunity for every student to make a difference on this campus, whether you’re a freshman or senior. Everyone is so motivated, so driven, with such extensive backgrounds.”
Baral added, “Your acceptance [into BU] is based on what you bring to the table, not your ideologies. We’re Bruins from all different backgrounds united by a common goal to improve the school we love.” This perhaps explains why Jewish Bruins find themselves aligned with BU year after year — last year, both Jewish candidates were BU members, as were the Jewish candidates in the 2012 elections.
Each of the candidates identifies differently with his/her Judaism, but all three feel a close connection to their Jewish ethnicity. Rosen, regardless of the fact that she is religiously Christian (but her father is Jewish) says her connection to Judaism is very much salient. “I feel a close connection,” she explained as she lists the various Holocaust and genocide courses she has taken at UCLA, and recounts the time someone drew a swastika on her campaign poster during high school student council elections.
Friedman also attested to such prejudice: “In high school, someone threw money at me and told me, ‘Pick it up, Jew.’” Although the sad reality is that anti-Semitism tends to strengthen the ties of the Jewish community, the students’ Jewish identities exceed beyond it. All three candidates enjoy attending Shabbat dinners at Hillel and attending Bruins for Israel meetings. Baral has served as the Vice President for the Jewish Student Union and as a Campus Engagement Intern for Hillel.
Naturally, these connections to the Jewish community brought up the topic of BDS — Boycott, Divest, and Sanction, an anti-Zionist movement — and the divestment bill that has been brought to council three times to date. Friedman, who is running for the position that most closely deals with the issue, explained, “The External Vice President has a huge role in determining how much is heard and what is portrayed about divestment to the Regents.” When asked about her stance on the issue, she openly admitted to being against it, but expanded by saying, “Whether my stance is for or against is irrelevant. My job is to give both pro- and anti-divestment voices a chance to be heard.” All three candidates call the bill “impractical” because there’s no dialogue involved with it. Friedman plans to make use of a program called Student Advocates to the Regents though the University of California Students Association, which allows UC students to “attend Board of Regents meetings, build relationships and speak about student priorities,” according to the UCSA website.
Rosen commented that the divestment bill is “irrelevant [for] USAC Council because there’s nothing that USAC can do — especially because a few weeks before, the UC Regents said they weren’t going to [divest].”
While the publicity surrounding the divestment issue makes many Jewish Bruins uneasy, others take a more concerned approach. Baral directly addressed the sensitive topic: “It’s important to pick candidates that will represent you on all issues, including divestment.”
In addition to these Jewish ties, each of the three candidates maintains professionalism and integrity throughout the campaign process and in their platforms. Friedman summarized the Jewish BU candidates’ outlook on their connections to Judaism: “I don’t want my experience advocating for the quality, accessibly, affordability of education […] to be defined by my ethnicity. That’s how my opposition always defines themselves. I see it that I am the most qualified to advocate for my fellow students’ needs, both regardless of and because of my identity.”
Voting opens on Tuesday, May 6th at 9 am and closes on Friday, May 9 at 12 pm.