UCLA student vying for student government asked if Jewishness is ‘conflict of interest’

The UCLA student government board debated the candidacy of a Jewish student this month and questioned whether her religion could be a "conflict of interest." Credit: Screenshot from YouTube video of the debate.

(JNS.org) The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) student government is under fire after questioning the candidacy of a Jewish student based on her religion.

When student Rachel Beyda applied to be a member of the UCLA Judicial Board, earlier this month, she was questioned on whether her Jewishness and her participation in Jewish life on campus could be a "conflict of interest," according to a video of the debate on the issue posted by the USAC Live! YouTube account.

“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?” asked Fabienne Roth, one of the students who opposed Beyda’s candidacy. 

Although Beyda was eventually approved for the position in a 9-0 vote, that decision only came about after a faculty member intervened to explain the difference between an actual “conflict of interest” and a "perceived conflict of interest,” which could apply to any member of the judicial board.

After the debate, UCLA's undergraduate student government president, Avinoam Baral, told the Daily Bruin that “it was definitely very difficult” to listen to the board discuss the student's candidacy because they “were quite clearly biased against her because of her Jewish identity and her affiliation to the community." 

Baral added that it was particularly difficult for him to hear the debate “as a Jewish student,” as it “echoed a centuries-long sort of connotation of Jews being unable to be truly loyal." Baral is currently working on a draft resolution against anti-Semitism on campus. 

In response to the incident, UCLA Chancellor Gene D. Block issued a letter stating that “no student should feel threatened that they would be unable to participate in a university activity because of their religion.” Four students who opposed Beyda’s candidacy, including Roth, also made a public apology. 

The debate begins at 47:30. 

Posted on February 25, 2015 .