Editorial Board reflects on actions of ASUCD senator Azka Fayyaz

On Jan. 29, ASUCD Senate Resolution No. 9 passed with an 8-2-2 vote. The resolution calls for the University of California Board of Regents to divest from “corporations that aid in the Israeli occupation of Palestine and illegal settlements in Palestinian territories.” ASUCD voted down a similar resolution this past May and in 2013.

Following the vote at the Jan. 29 meeting, ASUCD senator Azka Fayyaz, elected in Winter 2014, posted a picture on her personal Facebook page which stated, “Hamas & Shariah law have taken over UC Davis. Brb crying over the resilience.”

Hamas is a Palestinian Islamic group designated by the U.S. Department of State, and multiple other nations, as a terrorist organization.

Fayyaz’s post was met with harsh criticism. As a result of of public backlash, Fayyaz uploaded the same photo again on Jan. 29  with a different caption stating, “If a movement is not controversial, if no one is mad, it’s not strong enough & it’s not worth the fight. Israel will fall Insha’Allah : ) #UCDDivest.” She has since disabled her Facebook account.

In a public statement released Feb. 2 and published Feb. 3, Fayyaz stated that the reference in the first photo was a satirical caption. At the end of the statement, she extended an apology to her own community members for any difficulties she put them through and asked them to “stand with [her] during this time.”

“Although I made a comment on the picture stating that the caption was satirical, the anti-divestment community conveniently left out the comment from the rest of the picture and took the caption out of context,” Fayyaz said in the public statement.

While it is understandable — and even encouraged — for a political figure and an ASUCD senator to express her excitement over a bill she supports passing, the Editorial Board believes it is inappropriate and insensitive to make a post on a public area that marginalizes and offends certain groups. Although the posts were published on her personal Facebook profile, Facebook posts are a grey area, as ASUCD senators historically use Facebook politically to promote their campaigns, publicize events and release public statements.

When ASUCD officials are sworn in, they agree to certain policies. One is the ASUCD Principles of Community, which state that members of ASUCD “strive to make decisions in an open and inclusive manner that respects, nurtures and reflects understanding of the needs and interests of all community members.”

We believe Fayyaz has failed to uphold the ASUCD Principles of Community with her public statement and Facebook posts. These posts did not reflect the needs of a broad range of student groups and community members on our campus.

In addition to these online statements, Fayyaz has spoken publicly in a manner that we feel does not align with the Principles of Community. At the Jan. 29 meeting after senate conducted a roll call vote to see where senators stood on the issue of passing the resolution, Fayyaz made an extreme statement about the definition of Zionism.

“You can’t have coexistence with Zionists. Their purpose of Zionism is discrimination, elimination and ethnic cleansing of a group of people,” Fayyaz said at the meeting. “So if you want to talk about coexistence, I’m not talking with you because you’re going to try to kill me. I’m Muslim.”

Furthermore, a public statement is an opportunity to empathize and connect with her constituents, and we feel her letter did not do so. In the case a senator has differing viewpoints and disagrees with some of his or her constituents, according to the Principles of Community, he or she has an obligation as a member of our elected body to “recognize that our actions and decisions have consequences that impact each other.”

“I have a choice to release this statement — just like those of you who are connecting me to anti-Semitic sentiments and maliciously attacking me are making a choice. I’m choosing to communicate with you my truth because I want to make a lasting and positive difference in this world,” Fayyaz wrote.

We feel that Fayyaz’s public statement was insensitive not only for its absence of remorse to the general community but also for its incendiary nature in this sensitive time. The campus community would benefit from its leaders showing cooperation and positive communication over this indisputably-divisive and polarizing issue.

Although there are typically opportunities for the public to speak at senate meetings on Thursdays, ASUCD president Armando Figueroa announced in an email that senate would be cancelled this past week to “pause and reflect before [beginning] a process of renewed dialog in ASUCD on all issues.”

According the the ASUCD website Fayyaz typically holds office hours in the Student Community Center and senate office weekly. We encourage members of the UC Davis student body who are affected by this situation to be peaceful and respectful when expressing their opinions, and to share their concerns in a respectful way so there can be an open, effective conversation between students and Fayyaz.

We urge students to approach Fayyaz in a manner that abides by the UC Davis Principles of Community. Senator Fayyaz has stated that she felt threatened multiple times by several members of the community, which is equally unacceptable. No student should ever feel threatened or unsafe on this campus

We hope that Fayyaz can remedy her wrongs, as it is not becoming of an elected official to not offer an apology that empathizes more with the students she hurt and represents.


2/10/15 edited for clarity

Graphic by Jennifer Wu