Students from Associated Student Government (ASG) and Hillel, the association of Jewish students at Miami, have co-written a bill to “define and condemn” anti-Semitism. Hillel has also been working with ASG to reform the current university bias reporting system through a separate bill.
Hillel approached ASG after trying to use the bias reporting system to report an incident that president of Hillel Daniela Reuter described as part of “a long list of blatant anti-Semitic occurrences” on campus.
These occurrences include the scheduling of the 2018 Career Fair on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year during which practitioners fast and visit the synagogue. The other incidents include a swastika carved into the ground on Western campus, two professors making anti-Semitic remarks in class and a derogatory note left on the Students for Israel desk in Armstrong, according to the introductory clauses of the bill.
“Everything that is in the bill is from personal experience and has all been presented to the university,” Reuter said. “This is not new.”
Hillel’s report led to meetings with University President Gregory Crawford, Dean of Students Kimberly Moore and ASG Secretary of Diversity and Inclusion Courtney Rose.
The university spoke to the professors in question, but no further action was taken.
“A lot of it is kind of out of their hands. Things like tenure really play a role in it,” Reuter said. “And this is another issue. Anti-Semitism is not necessarily seen as as big of a problem as other things, so it’s not always taken in the most drastic way, and that’s also partially why we’re doing this.”
The bill defines anti-Semitism as “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of Antisemitism [sic] are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
This definition will be used in the bias reporting system going forward, provided the bill is passed. The bill also calls for a public report and breakdown of statistics to be published monthly.
Both Hillel and ASG hope that other organizations, such as the Black Action Movement (BAM) 2.0 and the Muslim Students’ Association, will come forward to define what constitutes hate speech and other actions so that the bias reporting system will be as ubiquitous and clear-cut as possible. The legislation is chiefly intended to provide data on the cultural climate and inclusivity of the university, rather than to punish students for hate speech, which would be a violation of the First Amendment.
“It’s just not very convenient for students to [report],” Reuter said. “Not many students know about it, and it’s just not what we think it should be.”
The bias reporting reform bill, which was authored by senators Brandon Small and Adrian Radilla, calls for an in-person demonstration of how to report an incident to accompany an in-person diversity training module for incoming students.
Both bills are to come before senate in late April so that other organizations have the opportunity to create their own definitions.