At Wednesday's meeting of the UC Board of Regents, the most controversial item wasn't the tuition hike approved for a handful of professional programs or the employee contribution increase to the UC Retirement Program.
It was the confirmation of UC Berkeley student Sadia Saifuddin as the board's 2014-15 student regent and next year's student regent designate.
At issue was Saifuddin's support of a bill encouraging the university to boycott and divest from Israel during her tenure as a senator in UCB's undergraduate student government, the Associated Students of the University of California.
It is ludicrous that this single item played such an outsized role in Wednesday's discussion of her suitability for the post.
During the meeting, members of the board zeroed in on the matter of divestment, adding their concerns and qualifying their compliments. In doing so, they failed to make serious note of the Berkeley student's overall track record or even to highlight the qualifications that made her the best candidate for the position.
Four regents spoke before the vote on Saifuddin's nomination, and all expressed concern about the divisiveness of boycott and divestment movements. Only one regent, Richard Blum, abstained from a vote.
By ignoring Saifuddin's stances on other issues, the board played part to an unfortunate narrative -- that her stance on the Israeli-Palestine conflict was of more consequence than her familiarity with the board's capabilities, her plans to advocate for an affordable UC degree or her other positions on higher education.
Saifuddin, the first Muslim student to serve on the Regents board, shouldn't be pinned down by one vote or one cause. She has undertaken projects to fight student hunger, helping to establish the UC Berkeley Food Pantry, and has also advocated on behalf of the LGBT community on campus. As the student representative to the board, Saifuddin said she hopes to facilitate cross cultural communication and to represent many campus communities.
The Israel-Palestine conflict is of great importance to many on UC campuses, and divestment is a touchy subject. Serious discussion is needed to improve the manner in which the Israel-Palestine conflict is discussed at our universities.
But it was clear from comments made by members of the board and the public that Saifuddin has widespread support among students of many backgrounds.Now we will see if the unfortunate focus of her confirmation process will compromise her ability to be an effective advocate for UC students on issues such as affordability, institutional accountability and academic diversity.
-- Loic Hostetter
Loic Hostetter, a UCLA student, is an intern this summer on The Bee's editorial board. He is live tweeting the Board of Regents meeting this week in San Francisco. Follow him on Twitter @LoicHostetter.