The U.C. Regents this week voted to have Sadia Saifuddin, whose nomination was opposed by several Jewish groups, join its board as a student representative with voting rights starting in July 2014.
For the upcoming year, she will serve as a regent-designate, which allows her to participate in discussions but not vote.
Saifuddin will become the University of California governing board’s first practicing Muslim.
Saifuddin, 21, from Stockton, recently completed her third year at U.C. Berkeley and is majoring in social welfare. She was up against two other students for the yearlong post, and in a voice vote taken by the 26-member board on July 17 in San Francisco, she was appointed with “ayes” from all but one regent, Richard Blum, who abstained.
A senator of the Associated Students of U.C. Berkeley, Saifuddin co-sponsored a campus resolution last spring urging ASUC and U.C. to divest $14 million from several companies, including Caterpillar and Hewlett-Packard. The bill’s authors contend that the companies provide support to Israel’s military in the Palestinian territories or contribute to the building, maintenance or economic development of Israeli settlements.
The nonbinding resolution passed 11-9, after which then–U.C. Berkeley Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau issued a press release stating that the vote would “not change investment policy established by the Regents of the University of California.”
The Simon Wiesenthal Center and the pro-Israel advocacy group StandWithUs were among those who opposed the appointment of Saifuddin, the daughter of immigrants from Pakistan and a member of the Muslim Students Association.
“It’s not that she’s a Muslim or anything about religion,” said Roberta Seid, SWU’s research/education director who attended the July 7 meeting and spoke against the nomination. “It’s about the message you’re sending about the BDS [boycott, divestment and sanctions] movement and anti-Israel extremism on campus. That is the concern.”
Blum abstained from the vote, telling reporters he was concerned about the divisiveness caused by the divestment measure. “When you’re going be the student representative, you have to represent all the students and you don’t want to alienate a lot of people,” he told the Associated Press. — j. staff