Molly Horwitz '16

Allegations of Anti-Semitism Levied Against SOCC Leadership in ASSU Elections

Molly Horwitz '16
Molly Horwitz ’16

Student Senate candidate allegedly asked by SOCC Leadership member how her Jewish faith would impact her action in the Senate; the Anti-Defamation League launches inquiry.

Correction: An earlier edition of the article stated polls open Tuesday night. Polls actually open late on Wednesday night.

Update: SOCC has released a copy of the contract it claims its candidates signed. It can be found here. The Stanford Review’s response can be found here. The Anti-Defamation league also forwarded The Review a copy of the letter it sent to Stanford, which can be read here.

When Molly Horwitz ’16 decided to run for a seat on Stanford’s student Senate, she applied for as many student groups’ endorsements as possible. Groups of all different sizes and interests grant endorsements and effectively secure their members’ votes for a Senate candidate, making these endorsements one of the most effective campaign tools available. But not all endorsements are created equally. Some are powerless; others can win hundreds of votes for the lucky candidate.

For many candidates, the Students of Color Coalition (SOCC) endorsement is the most sought-after due to its large size and impressive influence. SOCC is an umbrella group for six student organizations — listed at the end of this article — and works assiduously for its chosen candidates. After filling out an endorsement application, Ms. Horwitz was one of a limited number of candidates selected to interview for the SOCC endorsement.

On Friday, March 13, 2015, Ms. Horwitz arrived at the basement of the Native American Community Center for her interview. Accounts of what transpired during the interview vary and, without any recording of the interview, no single version can be verified.

Ms. Horwitz told The Stanford Review that one of SOCC’s leaders asked her, “Given your strong Jewish identity, how would you vote on divestment?” In February, the Undergraduate Senate approved a controversial resolution calling on Stanford to divest from companies aiding Israel’s “occupation” of the West Bank. Ms. Horwitz explained how she asked for clarification, and the SOCC member subsequently alluded to Ms. Horwitz’s application and asked how her strong Jewish identity would affect her decision in the Senate. In her endorsement application (view a screenshot or read a PDF), Ms. Horwitz repeatedly referenced her Jewish identity and included quotations such as the following:

“I identify as a proud South American and as a Jew”

“I felt like I was not enough for the Latino community and further embraced my Jewish identity”

“I found many parallels between the oppression of the Jews in Egypt and oppression of communities of color in the United States”

Ms. Horwitz told The Review that she then expressed disapproval that the Senate voted for divestment, but reiterated both her belief in the Senate’s democratic system and her hope for a peaceful Middle East.

This alleged line of questioning is similar to recent events at UCLA that attracted national condemnation: a Jewish student was asked whether she would be able to “maintain an unbiased view” on the school’s Judicial Board because of her Jewish identity. The incident at UCLA has since been widely criticized as an example of burgeoning anti-semitism and religious discrimination on college campuses.

If Ms. Horwitz’s claims are correct, then the alleged question and subsequent clarification singled out Ms. Horwitz for her religion, implicitly assuming that Ms. Horwitz’s Jewish faith raises questions regarding her ability to serve on the Senate. While SOCC has every right to select candidates it believes will advocate for its agenda, it does not have license to judge candidates purely on the basis of their religious beliefs. Perhaps more importantly, the question reveals an assumption that a student’s Jewish identity inherently  compromises his or her ability to serve effectively on the senate.  Religious discrimination, like discrimination on the basis of race, gender, or sexuality, is banned by Stanford’s Acts of Intolerance Protocol. These allegations are also concerning because SOCC is a coalition designed to advocate for groups that have historically faced discrimination.

There are other allegations against SOCC as well. Multiple sources have reported that SOCC made its selected candidates sign contracts barring them from associating with specific student groups and campus communities. Some sources indicated Jewish groups were explicitly listed on the contract while others maintained the Jewish groups were stated verbally. SOCC’s leadership allegedly collected the contracts after the candidates signed them.

Update: SOCC recently released a copy of the contract it had its candidates sign. There is no mention of Jewish groups on the contract. Assuming this is in fact the contract the candidates signed, it appears that Jewish groups were either mentioned verbally or not at all.

While multiple sources informed The Review about these clauses in the SOCC contract, there are multiple Senate candidates that are endorsed by both SOCC and by the Jewish Students Association (JSA). Additionally, we have heard from a SOCC-endorsed candidate that the contracts did not target Jewish groups. To resolve this question, The Review has requested that SOCC release the contracts (more on this below). A version of the contract was posted online, likely in response to this article.

The Review directly reached out both to SOCC’s leadership about these allegations and to the individual who allegedly asked the question but, as of publication time, neither have commented. The Review, however, will update this article if or when SOCC comments and can report that SOCC explicitly denied the allegations when the University looked into this matter.

To learn more about these interviews, The Stanford Review also sent a letter to candidates who were either endorsed by SOCC or who may have interviewed with SOCC. None of the candidates endorsed by SOCC responded to our request for comment. However, one candidate who interviewed with, but did not earn an endorsement from SOCC stated he was not initially asked about divestment. Instead, according to his account, SOCC initially asked the candidate how he thought the Senate had handled “major issues” during the year. The candidate then brought up the February senate divestment vote, and SOCC subsequently asked the candidate his thoughts on divestment. The candidate did not express an opinion on the subject, opting instead to call for a more inclusive Senate.

Stanford and the Anti-Defamation League Get Involved

That night, after her interview, Ms. Horwitz emailed Mr. Sajjan Sri-Kumar — the Elections Commissioner — about the incident. Mr. Sri-Kumar forwarded Ms. Horwitz’s complaint to Ms. Nanci Howe, the Associate Dean of Students and Director of Student Activities and Leadership. Ms. Howe promptly contacted Ms. Horwitz. In her email, which she also sent to Ms. Sally Dickson, the Associate Vice President of Student Affairs who runs Stanford’s Acts of Intolerance Protocol, Ms. Howe asked, “Is there a particular course of action you would like me or Sally to take, for example, a follow-up with the SOCC students?”

Ms. Horwitz responded: “I’m saddened by the action of my peers and would like a public apology. I think it’s also extremely problematic for the SOCC to still be able to endorse other students, when they have demonstrated discriminatory practices.” Ms.Howe was unavailable for comment as of this writing; we will update this story if and when she comments.

Ms. Horwitz also contacted the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). According to its website, the ADL “was founded in 1913 ‘to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all.’ Now the nation’s premier civil rights/human relations agency, ADL fights anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, defends democratic ideals and protects civil rights for all.”

On March 18, the ADL sent Ms. Howe a letter outlining Ms. Horwitz’s concerns. Ms. Lisa Lapin, a spokeswoman for Stanford, provided The Stanford Review with Ms. Howe’s response to the ADL letter. Part of it is excerpted below:

Sally Dickson, the Associate Vice Provost of Student Affairs, promptly spoke to the students directly involved in the interview session in order to hear their perspectives about the exchange.  We learned that there are different accounts of what occurred. Regardless, we have reminded those involved that all candidates should be treated consistently and fairly and that questioning based on an individual’s ethnic or religious affiliation is inappropriate. We remain committed to working with our students involved in the elections to actively support a fair and respectful process. We will also continue to work directly with Molly in addressing her concerns.

What Happens Next?

It will likely be impossible for Ms. Horwitz to substantiate her claims without hard evidence. However, Ms. Horwitz told The Review that members of her interviewing panel were taking notes. It is also difficult to assess the claims surrounding SOCC’s contracts without seeing copies of the signed contracts. Therefore, on April 9, The Stanford Review sent a letter to SOCC’s leadership, requesting, under the Freedom of Information clause in the ASSU Constitution, all the notes taken by SOCC during the interview process, copies of SOCC’s contracts, any existing question banks for the interviews, and other records. If SOCC does not comply with the request by the end of the day today (Sunday, April 12), then The Stanford Review will file a Constitutional Council Case against SOCC’s member organizations on the morning of Monday, April 13.

With polls opening on Wednesday night, Ms. Horwitz faces an uncertain electoral fate along with the other senate candidates. Unlike some of her opponents, however, Ms. Horwitz will enter the election without the SOCC endorsement logo on her flyers and without the powerful — and possibly discriminatory — support of SOCC’s leadership.

Read The Stanford Review’s correspondence with SOCC’s leadership regarding the letter and the Freedom of Information request:

Initial note to SOCC Leadership introducing the letter

Initial letter to SOCC Leadership

SOCC Response

Note: SOCC was given from Thursday night to Saturday night to answer the original letter. The relatively short timeline was due to the fact that elections are on Tuesday.

Stanford Review Response

SOCC is composed of the following member organizations: the Asian American Students’ Association (AASA), Black Student Union (BSU), Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA) de Stanford; Muslim Student Awareness Network (MSAN), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the Stanford American Indian Organization (SAIO).

Editor’s Note: When first posted, this article contained some documents that were not properly redacted. We have fixed all documents and apologize for the oversight. We thank one of our readers for bringing this to our attention.

Miriam Pollock contributed to the reporting for this article.

  • Ramlih Malcowitz

    Lol, like I would give a shit about a self-absorbed 13 mil if they didn’t keep committing war crimes.
    About the only other reason they ever crop up is because they’re in Eurovision.
    Btw, your logic of “you have to go there to criticize them” is irredeemably idiot and you know it; you just know it’s a convenient talking point, just like your appeal to perfection.

    Btw, “socially liberal, fiscally conservative” still makes you right wing~

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  • Corey

    Ok troll.

  • Ramlih Malcowitz

    lol, sorry most people only care about jews because of israel, maybe if they stop committing war crimes we can go back to not giving a shit

  • guest

    Just because someone says they speak for all jews does not mean that they actually do! Based on how close the last election was, you should be able to realize that.

  • McMullans

    “you’re not supposed to discriminate on the basis of their ethnic and religious background”…

    Tell this to Israel.

  • rab

    You should visit Israel some time so you can see a diverse and free society in action.

  • McMullans

    I see a diverse and free society in action, it’s called the “United” States of America.

  • maskedmc

    What an idiotic analogy. Stanford kids must be dumb.

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  • William Devillis

    A few positions? I don’t know how the recent elections last month shook out, but prior to that there was a Palestinian Muslim serving as the number 2 main in the Israeli Parliament which is 10% Muslim. There is an Arab on the Israeli Supreme Court. The Deputy Minister of Science and Technology is a Palestinian Muslim. There are quite a number of Arabs, both Christian and Muslim, judges, lawyers, doctors, engineers, tech company owners, members of and some officers in the military, and on and on.
    The percentage of Muslims who voted in last months Presidential elections was 64%, higher than the number of Americans who vote in our Presidential elections.
    Most importantly, a poll taken by a Palestinian newspaper in Israel, stated that approx. 80% of Palestinians supported a Palestinian State. Two surprises. The same 80% said that they’d rather live in Israel than in a Palestinian State. The # 2 reason was that they have civil rights in Israel that Hamas and the PA don’t allow. The biggest reason in the poll was that they have religious freedom in Israel. They can go and prey when and where they want without being dictated to how and when they must prey. The newspaper said that poll finding was a total surprise to them.
    As to Palestinians in the West Bank. After Israel built the wall to (successfully) keep out terrorists, the Palestinians in the West Bank sued the Israeli govt in Israel. They stated that in some areas the wall separated Palestinian homes from their work. If a Palestinian even complains about Hamas or the PA, he’s lucky if he’s just jailed and not executed. But here they sued the Israeli govt. The Israeli Supreme Court ruled that they were caused an undue hardship and ordered the Israeli govt to move the wall in these areas.
    One of the PA Ministers wrote an article in a Palestinian newspaper in the West Bank last year. He took the Palestinian business community to task. Why? Because many good hard working Palestinians were going to work in Israel because they were paid much better, given very good benefits and were allowed prayer time that even the West Bank businesses didn’t allow.
    Many Palestinians who need the excellent medical care that Israel provides come to Israel for that care. Even Khaled Mashal, Hamas’ leader, and his family use Israeli doctors and hospitals. Syrian refugees fleeing the war in Syria, some who were Palestinian, were taken into Israeli hospitals in the area. Some said they were so surprised at how they were treated by the Israelis and asked for asylum in Israel.
    Palestinians, in and out, of Israel have more rights under “Jews” then under their own and other Muslim govts.
    Groups like SOCC, SJP and MSA who want better lives for the Palestinians should stop blaming Israel, who would like nothing more than to completely leave the West Bank to its own devices. But look what happened when they pulled every last Jew out of Gaza. A terrorist state was born. IF these groups really want to improve the Palestinian lives, they should ask Hamas, why according to reports by the AP and others last week, that the billions of dollars, thousand of tons of cement, tens of thousands of concrete blocks given to Hamas after the 2014 war to rebuild their country for its citizens, has gone solely to rebuild tunnels, purchase thousands of rockets and rocket launchers and resupply Hamas’s military wing. These groups might ask the PA, why over the years, their leaders have received over $1 trillion from the UN, US, Israel and others, and yet many Palestinians have never left their refugee camps.
    Even a Saudi Arabian Naval Commander wrote in the Arab News in 2013 that Israel is the least of our worries in the Middle East. The Palestinians must stop refusing peace agreements with Israel because they insist on no negotiations. They want 100% of what they ask for or there can be no peace. How’s that worked out. If they had taken even one of the many peace deals that Israel offered them, they’d be living in a productive society and would probably benefit from the medical and technological advances of the Israelis. But only the Palestinians can decide if they want their children to continue the downward path.
    Of course, he wrote this before ISIS became a huge problem for the Palestinians. Since he wrote that article, Syrian rebels have killed thousands of Palestinians, mainly in the Yarmouk refugee camp. Several weeks ago, ISIS beheaded hundreds in the same camp. I haven’t seen Muslim groups on campus protest those actions. I guess if you’re Muslim, you can kill as many Palestinians as you want without criticism. But if a Jew kills one Palestinian, the campus rage is out of control.
    Not bigots, haters and hypocrites?? Really!

  • mxm123

    All this verbiage and not one sentence regarding the rights of millions of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. We get the point.

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