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Open Letter to the Board of UC Regents Regarding the Nomination of Sadia Saifuddin

Open Letter to the UC Board of Regents
Regarding the Nomination of Sadia Saifuddin

Office of the Secretary and Chief of Staff to the Regents
1111 Franklin St., 12th Floor
Oakland, CA 94607
E-mail:  [email protected]

Dear Regents,

As an international Israel education organization, we urge you not to approve Sadia Saifuddin as student regent in 2014-2015 and instead select one of the other two students who were also nominated for this position.

While we understand that Ms. Saifuddin may be well qualified in many ways, we believe she is ill-suited to be student regent and that her appointment by the regents will send the wrong message to the wider UC community.

Ms. Saifuddin has instigated some of the bitterest controversies roiling our campuses. Even though resolutions calling for divestment from companies doing business with Israel had created bitter divisions in the past, Ms. Saifuddin nonetheless co-sponsored a similar resolution at UC Berkeley this spring. The resolution was filled with false or disputed accusations that defamed the Jewish state. Instead of considering the facts, positions, and feelings of the many students who opposed the bill and instead of seeking common ground, she added fuel to the fire of an already-divisive campus issue.

It is of great concern that Ms. Saifuddin has shown marked callousness about the concerns of a significant portion of the student body - the Jewish students. She co-signed a letter in July 2012 that denounced the UC campus climate report about Jewish students and even maligned the choice of a former ADL leader who was appointed to research and write the report. Instead of expressing concern that Jewish students reported feeling bullied and harassed by aggressive anti-Israel activities, the letter she co-signed simply dismissed and disparaged their experiences. The letter also defended activities by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and the Muslim Student Union (MSU), despite the fact that President Yudof himself had condemned some of their actions, including their effort to shout down and silence speakers presenting Israel's point of view.

Finally, Ms. Saifuddin authored and co-sponsored a resolution in March 2013 that named specific individuals and denounced them as Islamophobic, effectively seeking to discredit and silence them. It is worrisome that she defends free speech rights for those who share her political views but does not uphold that same right for others. In her resolution she claims that the “University of California is no place for hateful and inflammatory rhetoric and holds its students, faculty, staff, and affiliates to higher standards that promote a positive and inclusive campus climate,” yet she is unwilling to examine how her own resolutions and activities violate this principle.

While it would be an important milestone for a Muslim student to become the student regent, Ms. Saifuddin is an ill-advised choice because she promotes activities that marginalize a large group of students on campus, and she advances extremist positions. The boycott and divestment resolutions (the "BDS" movement) have been widely condemned, even by a wide range of some of Israel's harshest critics, as a new form of anti-Semitism. As New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman observed, “criticizing Israel is not anti-Semitic, and saying so is vile. But singling out Israel for opprobrium and international sanction - out of all proportion to any other party in the Middle East - is anti-Semitic, and not saying so is dishonest.”

If you appoint a student who is prominently associated with the "BDS" movement, you would send a message normalizing and even rewarding the very activities that are greatly harming the campus environment.

We urge you to choose a more suitable student, one who will build instead of burn bridges and one who will join in the effort to restore reasonable and informed debate about contentious issues on the UC campuses.

Thank you,                                                                                                     

The Board and Staff of StandWithUs

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