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UCLA's Student Council Tries To Hide Video Of Its Members Questioning A Jewish Student

03/06/2015 06:52 pm ET

The Undergraduate Students Association Council at the University of California, Los Angeles, has taken down the video of a meeting where members asked what they've since acknowledged were inappropriate questions about a student's Jewish identity.

The university's USAC typically posts recordings of its meetings on YouTube. But the student government took down the footage of a Feb. 10 meeting where several students questioned whether Rachel Beyda, a Jewish candidate for the school's judicial board, could be "unbiased" given her religion.

Various news reports on the controversy this week prompted the hosts of MSNBC's "Morning Joe" to call on the university to put the video back online Friday. But the university told The Huffington Post that the decision to pull the video was made by the USAC's internal vice president's office.

USAC representatives did not respond to inquiries from HuffPost about why the video was taken down.

The group StandWithUs, a pro-Israel education and advocacy organization, is circulating a clipped video of the controversial meeting. Legal Insurrection, a conservative blog, has uploaded the full video of the meeting as it pertains to Beyda's nomination.

Avinoam Baral, USAC president, had nominated Beyda, 20, for a position on the university's Student Judicial Board. She appeared at a Feb. 10 council meeting to answer questions and make her case as a solid candidate.

But members of the council kept focusing on Beyda's Jewish identity, video from the meeting shows.

"Given that you are a Jewish student and very active in the Jewish community... how do you see yourself being able to maintain an unbiased view?" asked Fabienne Roth, a USAC general representative.

Baral interjected, saying, "I don't think that's a question we'd feel comfortable asking other students."

But another person in the room asked Beyda if she had "any political affiliations that could cause a conflict of interest."

"If I ever felt that I had a vested interest or any bias, I would remove myself from the decision," Beyda responded. She stayed upbeat and collected throughout the questioning.

After Beyda left the room, USAC members continued to voice concerns, many of which appeared to be related to Beyda's being Jewish.

As heard in the video, several members said they believed Beyda was qualified, but wondered whether as a sophomore she was ready for the position, or if her "political affiliations" presented a conflict. One person said that Beyda belonged to "a community that is very invested in certain outcomes." Baral told them they were being "inappropriate."

"What I'm seeing right now is someone potentially being denied a position because they're Jewish," Baral told his colleagues, according to the video. "I see no other reason. She's a great candidate, obviously. And she’s fantastic."

Roth did not respond to a request for comment from HuffPost about why she brought up Beyda's religion.

Although it isn't explicitly mentioned during the discussion, the Feb. 10 meeting with Beyda took place amid a push by student activists at UCLA and elsewhere for their schools to join the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. The BDS movement was started in 2005 by Palestinian groups to increase pressure on Israel to end the occupation of certain territories.

In November, the USAC voted in favor of a resolution calling on UCLA to divest from all "American companies that some say profit from human rights violations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip," as the Daily Bruin, UCLA's student newspaper, reported.

The initial vote to confirm Beyda at the Feb. 10 meeting was split, 4-4. She was confirmed unanimously on a second vote after a faculty member stepped in to elaborate on the USAC's conflict of interest policy, according to a copy of the minutes.

Roth, Manjot Singh, Sofia Moreno Haq and Negeen Sadeghi-Movahed, USAC members who were all present at the Feb. 10 meeting, later apologized for focusing on Beyda's Jewish background during the confirmation process.

UCLA Chancellor Gene D. Block said in a campuswide email last week that "council members unfairly questioned the fitness of a USAC Judicial Board applicant" because she was Jewish.

"No student should feel threatened that they would be unable to participate in a university activity because of their religion," Block wrote.

When reached by HuffPost on Friday, Beyda declined to comment, saying, "As a member of the Judicial Board, I do not feel it is appropriate for me to comment on the actions of UCLA’s elected student government."

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