On Febuary 10th, Rachel Beyda, a talented campus leader, was interrogated about her Jewish identity and questioned whether it meant she was somehow unable – or unfit – to serve on UCLA’s Student Council Judical Board.
The questions from students targeted Rachel for only one reason – that she is a Jew. “Given that you are a Jewish student and very active in the Jewish community,” said Fabienne Roth, an Undergraduate Students Association Council member, “how do you see yourself being able to maintain an unbiased view?”
Apologies for the words spoken have been given. But it’s not clear what that means. Is it: “I said it wrong“? Or “I’m ashamed that I was blind to my own prejudices“? The real issues are the ignorant attitudes and beliefs that drove such biased statements in the first place.
Can you imagine if a gay student was asked if he could “maintain an unbiased view” toward straight students? Or a person in a wheel chair asked if she could be fair to a guy on the track team? Or a Hispanic student asked if she could “maintain an unbiased view” toward students who are black?
Sadly, the UCLA incident is not isolated. It represents a pattern in universities nationwide. And it reminds us how bias on the basis of any belief or identity will only scar and divide.
Worse, such prejudice raises frightening questions for our future. Think of it this way, if student leaders at UCLA don’t realize when they are being anti-Semitic, what can we expect from the next generation of our nation’s leaders?
We can do better. Let’s start by teaching that respect is the foundation of leadership.
With hope for a better future,
Joyce S. Dubensky