A resolution to divest from companies that profit from alleged human rights violations in Israel and Palestine did not come to a vote at the Associated Students Senate meeting on Wednesday after 12 senators left — and never came back.
The controversial “divestment” resolution was brought to the table for the fifth time in six years on Wednesday, but 12 senators and proxies didn’t return to the over 10-hour-long meeting after a brief recess.
Senators disagreed on a specific element of the resolution, one that would have altered the number of “yes” votes needed for the resolution to pass. Following a prolonged standoff that divided the Senate nearly in half, the meeting abruptly ended just after 5:00 a.m., when Internal Vice President (IVP) Jasmine Sandhu announced that there were no longer enough senators to vote on the resolution.
“Our constituents were still here when people decided to leave,” Senator Grecia Martinez told the Nexus after the meeting.
The resolution calls on UC Santa Barbara, the A.S. Investment Advisory Committee, the UC Treasury and the UC Regents to withdraw investments from companies “that provide military support to the occupation of Palestinian territories.”
Investing in companies like General Electric, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, which sell military equipment to Israel, shows “implicit support” for the killing of Palestinian civilians, the resolution states.
Eighty-nine speakers took the podium at public forum on Wednesday, the vast majority of them speaking about the issue of divestment and the Israel-Palestine conflict at large.
But the Senate never got to an actual discussion about the conflict. Instead, the senators fell into a disagreement after Ali Suebert, the A.S. attorney general, told the Senate at public forum that the resolution would be a “positional” and not “directional” piece of legislation.
A positional resolution “endorses, sponsors, or supports a group’s actions or events,” according to A.S. Legal Code. Typically, the Senate uses these resolutions to adopt an official stance on an issue.
A directional resolution, meanwhile, “directs members of A.S. Personnel, Boards, Committees, and/or the Senate to specific duties” and usually moves to create an actual effect.
Suebert pointed to individual parts of the resolution’s language, including a phrase about companies “profiting from human rights violations,” to justify her judgment that the resolution called for adopting a position.
The key difference between the two comes down to voting thresholds. While a positional resolution needs a two-thirds majority to pass, a directional resolution needs only a 50 percent plus one vote majority to be approved.
That margin mattered to the divestment vote. Throughout the night, various votes to move the meeting forward stalled at 13-12. As a result, the Senate wound up discussing only the nature of the resolution itself and not its contents.
Ultimately, 13 senators did not want to approve the agenda, which would have codified the resolution as positional. Seeing that they wouldn’t budge, the other 12 senators did not come back from a recess, which forced an early end to the meeting.
Senators Brandon Mora and Vanessa Maldonado co-authored the resolution, and students Naia Al-Anbar and Edan Tessema co-sponsored it.
The resolution was intended to be directional, Maldonado said at the meeting. She emphasized she and Mora did not want the Senate to assume a position on the political or moral issue at the core of divestment.
Copies of the resolution provided by A.S. at the meeting stated that the resolution was directional. Sandhu, who chairs the Senate and has the authority to adjust resolutions, later changed it to be positional. Suebert, the A.S. attorney general, deemed it both directional and positional when she spoke at public forum.
The resolution will now be pushed either to next week’s meeting, an emergency meeting or an email vote.
Senator Alexandra Gessesse and third-year global studies major Justice Dumlao, who substituted for Sophia Uemura, cited language used in past directional resolutions, such as a resolution to support last week’s AFSCME strike, as having set a precedent for how directional resolutions should be written.
“At the end of the day, you see the senators that came back to the table willing to have the conversation that was necessary to make sure the authors got due diligence, that the communities got due diligence and both sides on UCSB’s campus and all students involved got due diligence,” Gessesse told the Nexus.
Gessesse added that she felt the walkout disrespected Sandhu as the Senate chair.
“It was disappointing to see people who I would think are committed to this campus, especially in terms of their commitments next year, to not be committed to working through student issues when I’m obviously committed to working on these student issues,” Dumlao said.
Senators who were approached for comment after walking out of the meeting asked to be contacted later in the day on Thursday.
Megan Mineiro, Sanya Kamidi and Maura Fox contributed reporting.
Correction: A previous version of the graphic in this story listed Adnan Mansur as Sami Kaayal’s proxy. In fact, Rafael Cornejo was Kaayal’s proxy while Mansur attended the meeting as a senator.
The graphic also lists Ilene Ochoa as a senator who stayed. At meeting’s end, Ochoa was represented by a proxy, Dallin Mello.