On February 10, four members of the nine-member UCLA student government initially voted against appointing a female Jewish candidate, voicing their belief that her Jewish background made her unfit for the position on the government’s judicial branch.
The student targeted, Rachel Beyda, eventually was voted to the position unanimously, but not before 40 minutes of debate, during which the four students attacked Beyda’s qualifications.
The UCLA student newspaper, the Daily Bruin, reported that the four student representatives who contended against Beyda were Fabienne Roth, Manjot Singh, Negeen Sadeghi-Movahed and Sofia Moreno Haq, according to the Jewish Journal.
Roth reportedly began the assault by querying Beyda, “Given that you are a Jewish student and very active in the Jewish community, how do you see yourself being able to maintain an unbiased view?”
The College Fix reported, “A second council member, Negeen Sadeghi-Movahed, posed the same question using less obvious terms. A third council member piggy-backed on the previous questions by asking Beyda what she thinks constitutes a conflict of interest.”
Beyda defended herself for a few minutes, then left while the 40-minute debate took place. Roth opined, “I feel like we should be working on a way to make sure that we make things better at USAC [Undergraduate Students Association Council], and we have a legacy that’s not being more divisive towards things. She’s part of a community that is very invested in USAC and in very specific outcomes that Judicial Boards make decisions on every year.”
Sadeghi-Movahed added: “For some reason, I’m not 100 percent comfortable. I don’t know why. I’ll go through her application again. I’ve been going through it constantly, but I definitely can see that she’s qualified for sure.” Sadeghi-Movahed apologized on Facebook February 12.
Council President Avinoam Baral, who is Jewish, argued that Beyda’s Jewishness was not relevant in judging her qualifications. Apparently the council saw things differently after Debra Geller, chief administrative officer for student and campus life who was overseeing the hearing, told them they did not completely understand the difference between conflict of interest and perceived conflict of interest.
She lectured, “I don’t know that there’s a single student in this campus community you could appoint to anything where somebody wouldn’t have a perceived conflict. That would apply to all of you as well.”
Sadeghi-Movahed, Roth, Haq and Singh wrote a public apology Feb. 20 in the Daily Bruin.
Baral, who had nominated Beyda because of her stellar record, said later, “It was definitely very difficult for me to sit there as they were discussing the appointment and were quite clearly biased against her because of her Jewish identity and her affiliation to the community. As a Jewish student, this for me echoed a centuries-long sort of connotation of Jews being unable to be truly loyal.” Baral is helping to write a resolution for the council that would condemn antisemitism.
Rabbi Aaron Lerner, the incoming executive director for Hillel at UCLA, emailed the Jewish Journal:
The same group of elected student leaders who were instrumental in bringing an anti-Israel resolution to campus earlier this year felt it was appropriate to publicly question a fellow student’s qualifications as a candidate because of her ethnic and religious identity…Now it’s time to question whether BDS belongs on campus. Especially given the way it has allowed itself to become polluted by an inability to distinguish between advocating for Palestinian rights versus freely mingling with and even sponsoring anti-Semitic speakers and events.