Over the objections of Jewish organisations, the University of California regents on Wednesday selected a new student regent whose advocacy for divesting from Israel, and her outspokenness against “Islamophobia”, has placed her in the centre of one of the most divisive issues in campus politics: Israeli-Palestinian relations.
Sadia Saifuddin of UC Berkeley will become the first Muslim to serve as “student regent designate” — for 2014-15 — after receiving unanimous support from the regents who voted.
Regent Dick Blum abstained, saying, “If you’re going to be the student representative, you have to represent all students. You don’t want to alienate them. ... So I’ve got a problem with this.” But many others at the regents’ meeting in San Francisco — including Jews — spoke in favour of appointing Ms. Saifuddin. She embodies “open-mindedness and tolerance”, said Jonathan Stein, a Cal law student who served on the selection committee. A social welfare major and member of student government, Ms. Saifuddin will serve as a nonvoting regent for one year before becoming a voting member in the next year, succeeding Cinthia Flores, a law student from UC Irvine.
To those who spoke on her behalf, Ms. Saifuddin is not only a brilliant student and kind mentor, she is an advocate for tolerance and inclusion of all students.
But to representatives of anti-defamation groups who addressed the regents and sent e-mails opposing the appointment, Ms. Saifuddin’s actions have fomented a “toxic and hostile” environment for Jewish students.
At the lunch break, she faced reporters. “I hope my leadership is seen in a wider perspective,” she said, noting that her divestment activities had been on behalf of a campus advocacy group called the Middle Eastern Muslim South Asian Coalition.
“I think the position on divestment is irrelevant. It may be my personal opinion, but that has nothing to do with my work as a student regent.”
Her main goals on the board will be improving student access to financial aid and making campuses more tolerable for all students, she said. — New York Times News Service