The University of Oklahoma cut all ties with the Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) fraternity chapter on campus after a video surfaced in which fraternity members were chanting a racist song on Monday, March 9th.
A statement from SAE’s national headquarters apologized for the “unacceptable and racist behavior.” The University of Oklahoma’s SAE chapter closed, all members have been suspended (including those not in the video), and those recognized in the video have been expelled. I applaud University of Oklahoma President David Boren’s message calling students involved in the incident, “disgraceful.”
Last month sophomore Rachel Beyda applied to and stood before UCLA’s Undergraduate Students Associate Council (USAC) to become a member of its Judicial Board. She was questioned for a reported 40 minutes about anything but her qualifications for the position. Questions about Beyda’s religion were posed such as, “given that you are a Jewish student and very active in the Jewish community,” Fabienne Roth, a member of the Undergraduate Students Association Council, asked, “how do you see yourself being able to maintain an unbiased view?”
The Council’s implications are obvious: Beyda is a strong supporter of Israel, so she was then attacked for being Jewish. If you do not think the two are connected — anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism — I invite you to read the State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism, and take note of the way both are associated, especially on college campuses. One State Department example of anti-Semitism is “accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel…than to the interest of their own nations.” This is precisely what happened to Rachel Beyda. The Council voted against admitting her because she is Jewish. A faculty responded that he was “disappointed” in the decision, and the vote was overturned. No legal action was taken against these racist students.
How does the Rachel Beyda incident relate to the recent events at the University of Oklahoma? The video in which members of SAE sung racist songs has been shared over the Internet and recognized by President Boren. The video of UCLA’s student government meeting was taken off YouTube, even though USAC has a policy of uploading all of their meetings. Conservative blog Legal Insurrection uploaded the full video here. When it came to racism toward black students, University officials condemned the video and expelled those involved. When it came to discrimination against a Jew at UCLA, the video was not used in order to punish those involved but instead removed from the Internet, concealing the anti-Semitism that is alive and well at UCLA.
Chancellor Gene Block called the events at UCLA “a teaching moment” and a “lesson in governance.” With all due respect Chancellor, this is neither – this is a lesson about anti-Semitism- and a timely one at that. The last decade has seen a disturbing resurgence of anti-Semitism on college campuses that is masked as anti-Zionism.
In November 2014 at the University of Arizona, a member of SAE entered the Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) house, and raised his hand to salute Adolph Hitler. He then went into another fraternity house and came out with twenty other people, returning to AEPi to attack Jewish students. Gideon Rafal was struck from behind and knocked unconscious. He spent three weeks in the hospital- ten days in the ICU. Members of the SAE fraternity suspected of being involved in the attack were suspended, but no one was expelled, and the chapter was not kicked off of campus.
In January of this year the University of California at Davis student government passed an anti-Israel resolution. The day after the resolution passed, swastikas were spray-painted onto an AEPi house, and another Jewish residence was vandalized. The anti-Semitic vandalism occurred as a direct result of the anti-Israel sentiment. Chancellor Katehi’s letter on the vandalism does not address the anti-Israel resolution, does not characterize the acts as anti-Semitic, nor does it vow to hold those guilty of the crimes accountable.
At the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), students supporting the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, spat on Jewish students in 2013. Chancellor Yang agreed to strengthen civil rights protection for Jewish students, but none of those who participated in anti-Semitism at UCSB were punished. In the last two years, swastikas have appeared at George Washington University, and despite requests for police investigation, “the University is not investigating the incident as a hate crime”. The University of Oregon AEPi house was vandalized with swastikas last fall, and President James Wagner condemned the anti-Semitism, but he punished no one for them.
Two members of SAE have been expelled on grounds of their “role in leading a racist and exclusionary chant which has created a hostile educational environment.” If this hate-speech is grounds to expel those engaging in racism on college campuses, why have none of those engaged in the above (short) list of anti-Semitic activities been expelled?
Why was President Boren’s message that condemned the SAE fraternity not echoed by Chancellor Block about UCLA’s student council? Jewish students feel threatened daily on college campuses. President Boren condemned the racist act to ensure that black students feel safe after the video surfaced. How are Jewish students to feel safe at UCLA when their chancellor has called this obvious act of anti-Semitism a mere “teaching moment,” and when the very evidence that proved the need for action was taken down by the Chancellor himself?
The difference between these two incidents is that one involved blacks, and the other was about Rachel Beyda – a Jew. If Beyda had ties to any other religion or race, there would have a huge outcry across America. The UCLA student council attacked Beyda for her Judaism, and they did it with full knowledge of what they were saying. So, let’s be honest about this and call it for what it is: this is a double standard. It is also pure, unadulterated anti-Semitism.
There is a message here for Jewish students on campus: strong Zionist and Jewish students like myself, are an unwelcomed minority on college campuses in America.
Lindsay Schneider is a Research Associate at the Endowment for Middle East Truth and a senior at the University of Maryland.