Letter to the Editor: Administration counters The Aggie’s editorial criticizing UC Davis response to anti-Semitic fliers

CAITLYN SAMPLEY / AGGIE

To the Editor:

Re “UC Davis, ECAC fails Jewish community” (editorial, Oct. 15):

There are several misstatements in this editorial, it contains factual errors and it carries an accusatory tone. Campus leaders welcome constructive criticism, but the administration is not your enemy.

Chancellor Gary May released his statement about the fliers just after 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 8, expressing in clear language his distaste for the content of the fliers that had been posted around campus that morning. His statement unambiguously called the fliers anti-Semitic. We’d hardly call that “disorganized.” The statement was posted online, shared with media and distributed on social media channels, which are the fastest and most effective ways to get a message to a community.

As for grammatical errors, you didn’t include any examples. There was indeed an error in the link, but that was corrected within an hour of the statement being posted. The link included information about how to reach out for mental health support and counseling.

Chancellor May heard from students, faculty, staff and the broader community about the fliers. Many people were supportive and grateful, including the Consul General of Israel, the Academic Engagement Network, Hillel International chapters at Davis and Sacramento and parents. Some were also critical, and the Chancellor responded promptly to every email or letter he received (you linked to one of his responses). In each of these responses, he noted that he has invited the Anti-Defamation League to campus for a town hall and for smaller meetings. In the meantime, the Chancellor reached out to many in the Jewish community and offered to meet in person with individuals such as ASUCD President Michael Gofman and Aggies for Israel President Dana Benavi.

The UC Davis police department has been investigating this incident and has made it a priority. To say that the administration is not doing all they can or that they are responding “haphazardly” is an unfair characterization of what has happened and continues to happen to address this issue. Your editorial comes across as “us-versus-them.” We are all part of the same community; we are all impacted by incidents that hurt anyone in our community.

You write that the Office of the Chancellor sent a campus-wide email during AFSCME’s protest last spring. That is incorrect. Prior to union actions, a letter to the community was distributed and posted by the Vice Chancellor of Finance, Operations and Administration. The Chancellor sent a message to the community after union actions had ended.

The Chancellor has been consistent in how and when he issues statements when anything heinous happens on campus or to anyone in our community, including in response to the “it’s okay to be white” fliers that were distributed last year. It’s a stretch to compare expressions of intolerance related to anti-Semitism or white supremacy or other hate-filled messages with campus-wide Picnic Day messages.

When offensive incidents like this occur, there is a natural tendency to want to assess blame. Let’s try to direct the blame where it belongs: with the anti-Semites who posted the fliers. We all want a healthy, respectful climate in which to live, study and work. The last statement in your editorial is one we can agree on, and one which Chancellor May stressed in his statement as well: “The campus community must know that anti-Semitism of any kind will not be tolerated.”

Written by: Dana Topousis

The writer is the chief marketing and communications officer at UC Davis.