Now that the results of the USAC election are in, Jewish Bruins have begun to contemplate what the upcoming 2015-2016 term will look like. For the first time since 2012, the Bruins United slate has garnered majority representation in student government.
To many Jewish students on campus, this is a victory. BU has generally been known as the slate that opposed the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions resolution, while LET’S ACT! is known for advocating for it.
In past elections, the greatest cause for concern for the Jewish community as a whole has ostensibly been BDS. Although a divestment resolution has already passed at UCLA, a board tolerant of Jewish students may prevent similar anti-Israel or anti-Semitic resolutions from passing in the future.
However, it is erroneous to assume that we, as Jewish students, automatically have it made now that we have a student government predominantly comprised of BU council members. Voting for a BU candidate does not guarantee voting for someone who is pro-Israel or even pro-Jewish. Take for example, former General Representative 3 Fabienne Roth. Originally elected as part of BU, she soon dissociated herself from the slate and declared herself an Independent despite becoming “significantly divisive as a vocal supporter of LET’S ACT! initiatives,” according to the Daily Bruin’s evaluation of her. Most notoriously, Roth is known for her anti-Semitic questioning of Rachel Beyda to serve on the Judicial Board of UCLA.
A similar example appears in the cases of BU members supporting BDS at UCLA. Last year’s Facilities Commissioner Armen Hadjimanoukian, of the BU slate, sponsored the divestment resolution that failed in February 2014. Additionally, the 2014-2015 Facilities Commissioner Carlos Quintanilla, also of BU, voted in support of BDS this past fall.
While these few instances of BU-elected council members turning away from the majority BU sentiment to oppose BDS are not the norm, they demonstrate that the Jewish community cannot necessarily rely on the candidates of BU to represent our wants and needs by default.
So, what do this year’s USAC election results mean for UCLA’s Jewish community? I pose this question somewhat facetiously. Are we so narcissistic as to make our sole criterion for judging a candidate’s value based on our own self-interest? Don’t get me wrong — as a Jew, I recognize that we make up a national minority and it is important that we ensure our voices are heard. After all, if we don’t look out for ourselves, who will? It is true that overall BU has historically been beneficial for the Jewish community. However, instead of lazily assuming that council members associated with BU will automatically champion Jewish students’ interests in the work they do and at the council table in particular, the Jewish community should proactively build strong relationships with all council members — regardless of their slate affiliation.
Now that the 2015-2016 council members have been selected, the Jewish community should take steps to make the most out of the board that was voted in. Leaders should continue to ensure the implementation of initiatives that were put into place this year — such as the sensitivity trainings on anti-Semitism that were required in response to the Rachel Beyda incident — and all students should generally keep a watchful eye on council members to make sure that they live up to their responsibilities. If you care about the leaders who represent us, then take the time to keep up with campus news, build relationships with those in office, and communicate your concerns or suggestions through the various forums of dialogue available here.
While I celebrate the victory of the newly elected BU members to USAC, I cannot say with certainty whether or not they will always act in the best interest of the Jewish students on campus. It is imperative, therefore, that the Jewish community works to build and maintain strong relationships with the council members throughout their terms. So long as such connections are in place, I am confident in the new council members’ abilities to improve the school and look forward to seeing what they will achieve this year in office.