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Saturday, March 2, 2024

Campus response to recent incident sparks analysis of the history of antisemitism at UC Davis

After releasing a statement condemning the recent antisemitic hate incident in Davis, Chancellor May published another statement detailing the administration’s response to antisemitism as a whole on campus over recent years 

By SYDNEY AMESTOY — campus@theaggie.org

On Aug. 28, a series of antisemitic banners were hung from the Highway 113 overpass by a group of four white men dressed in all black. The incident is still being investigated by campus police as of Oct. 3. 

Later that day, UC Davis Chancellor Gary May released a statement reminding students of the UC Davis Principles of Community, as well as sharing numerous counseling resources for students distressed by the incident. 

However, this event was not the first antisemitic act on campus in recent years. The list also includes the passing out of antisemitic flyers on campus in 2017 and an incidence in 2015 involving a swastika being painted on the side of the Alpha Epison Pi fraternity, a predominatly Jewish fraternity. 

A study done by the AMCHA Initiative in 2016 found that UC Davis, along with four other UC campuses, ranked among the top 10 in antisemitic activity in comparison to colleges across the nation. 

Hannah Holzer, a reporter for the Sacramento Bee and a UC Davis alumna, wrote an opinion piece about UC Davis’ response to the most recent incident and analyzing the other incidents that have occurred throughout the years. Her piece criticized the current administration’s response to antisemitic acts on campus, calling for action over statements.

May published a follow-up statement on Sept. 7 as part of his “Chancell-ing” column, which provides updates directly from him. The follow-up statement said that it sought to more directly point to “steps [taken by the university] in recent years to do more to combat 

antisemitism.” 

The statement went on to describe examples of collaboration between the administration and Jewish student groups on campus in recent years, including a collaborative workshop put on by ASUCD and Alpha Epsilon Pi known as “Combating Antisemitism as Student Leaders” in 2018 and the 2020 creation of a Jewish Student Life advisory council, which is made up of Jewish student leaders, Davis faculty and leadership, community representatives and others. 

May also referenced meetings between Jewish students and leaders at the UC Davis Cross Cultural Center, the Center for Student Involvement, the Division of Student Affairs, the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and the Middle East, North African South Asian Student Resources unit. 

“Through these meetings and relationships, we have worked with students to empower them to host forums and workshops,” May said in the statement. “We have listened to their concerns, referred them to appropriate offices for support, and worked to address issues that arose during our conversations.” 

Holzer responded to the Chancellor’s follow-up statement, which he published just days after her piece in the Sacramento Bee.

“I thought it was a little bit funny,” Holzer said, in response to the chancellor’s more recent statement. “If he had taken [my article] to heart, he would have seriously considered that these words of condemnation aren’t enough.”

Holzer went on to acknowledge the steps that the university has taken. 

“I do know that the chancellor and administration have been in talks with [the Jewish Student Life Advisory board], to their credit,” Holzer said. “The board has come up with easy, tangible steps to combat antisemitism on campus.” 

Sven-Erik Rose, an associate professor of German and comparative literature and the current interim director of the Jewish Studies program at UC Davis described his thoughts on May’s response.

“I was impressed with how quickly [May] responded to the incident,” Rose said. “[By] putting out a statement almost immediately on various forms of social media […] I felt that [May] clearly demonstrated that the administration takes antisemitism very seriously and condemns antisemitic acts and other acts of hate quickly, repeatedly and unequivocally.”

The chancellor, as well as campus police, were contacted, but did not respond in time for the publication of this article. 

If you want to report an incident of hate, discrimination, harassement or bias that you witnessed or experienced on campus to the university, you can do so here

Written by: Sydney Amestoy — campus@theaggie.org