Sadia Saifuddin, a junior at UC Berkeley, has been nominated to become a student member of the powerful University of California Board of Regents, the governing body that determines policies for the 10-campus system.
Saifuddin’s nomination has won warm praise from fellow students but has also raised some concern about her recent role in the passage of an anti-Israel resolution on the Berkeley campus.
Saifuddin, 21, is a Stockton resident whose parents emigrated from Pakistan. In the fall, she will start her senior year as a social welfare major, according to the Daily Californian, the campus newspaper.
An observant Muslim, she is a member of the UC Berkeley student senate. In that capacity, she co-sponsored a bill calling for the UC system to divest of stock in companies that provide technological and weapon support used by the Israeli military in the Palestinian territories.
After an emotional 24-hour debate, the bill passed in April by an 11-9 vote.
“I’m not concerned with anyone’s religion, but I believe the attitude expressed by Sadia Saifuddin in promoting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction campaign against Israel should play a role in her nomination and selection as a student regent,” said Roz Rothstein, founder and CEO of StandWithUs, a pro-Israel advocacy organization.
Saifuddin told the Daily Californian, “I come from a legacy of people who care about education and community, and I want the people who come after to have the same opportunities that I’ve had.”
In a subsequent report in the Los Angeles Times, she is quoted, “My faith is a big part of my life. What I love most about Islam is that it preaches tolerance and love, which is the reason why I have close friends and networks outside of the Muslim community as well.”
A special UC Regents committee nominated Saifuddin for the student regent post, and confirmation by the full Board of Regents is expected next month.
She will then serve as a regent-designate from July 2013 until July 2014, and as a regent with full voting powers the following year.
Her selection would add to the roster of student regents from the Berkeley campus as a living advertisement for diversity. The present incumbent is Jonathan Stein, preceded by Alfredo Morales Jr. and Jesse Cheng.
Student regents usually come from the ranks of graduate students, but Saifuddin is still an undergraduate, Stein noted. “To be an undergrad in that position, you have to be a superstar,” he said. “You have to have maturity and poise well beyond your years.”