The controversial “divestment” resolution will not see a vote for the rest of the school year following a frenzied evening at the Associated Students Senate, during which the outgoing Senate failed to meet and the next Senate was disrupted by a 60-person protest.
The recently elected 69th A.S. Senate abruptly ended its inaugural meeting after a group of about 60 people stormed the Hub screaming, “Shut it down!” in what the group called an act of “civil disobedience.” The students stomped onto the stage and grabbed microphones away from the sitting senators, who had hastily begun their meeting when 11 senators and Internal Vice President-Elect Steven Ho failed to show up.
In similar fashion, 15 senators and proxies didn’t show up to the final 68th Senate meeting earlier that evening. Those who boycotted the meeting did so in an apparent protest of the 12 who didn’t return to last week’s meeting.
When the dust settled, it was another instance — the fifth time in six years — in which divestment failed to pass at UC Santa Barbara, which remains the only undergraduate UC campus not to have passed the resolution.
The divestment resolution calls for the UC to withdraw investments from companies that profit from alleged human rights violations in Israel and Palestine. While proponents cite violence in the region as a reason to divest, opponents, largely from the Jewish community, believe the resolution singles out Israel and draws its contents from the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which they deem to be anti-Semitic.
Wednesday evening was intended to include both the final meeting of the 68th Senate and the first session of the 69th, along with the swearing-in of the elected A.S. executives.
The final meeting of the 68th was supposed to pick up right where it left off — at the conclusion of last week’s meeting, where 12 senators and proxies didn’t return from a recess because the other 13 wouldn’t approve the agenda. The Senate was split over how to categorize the resolution, a distinction that would have significantly altered the necessary voting threshold.
“We wanted to accept the agenda, to discuss this issue,” said Off-Campus Senator Kristen Armellini. “To say that we didn’t want to discuss it is false.”
This week’s senate needed the same combination of senators and proxies that were present before last week’s recess began. But only 10 senators were present, leading Internal Vice President Jasmine Sandhu to adjourn the meeting and officially announce that the 68th A.S. Senate’s term was complete.
“I wish we could’ve ended this like we should’ve,” Transfer Senator Kian Maalizadeh said after the meeting was adjourned.
The 69th A.S. Senate meeting was scheduled to begin at 8 p.m., but IVP-Elect Ho and 11 senators were not present for the first forty minutes.
Ho, a senator this year, had already communicated he would be late to the 68th senate meeting because his pass time for choosing fall quarter classes was scheduled for 6:30 p.m., according to a statement he sent to the Nexus.
Marisela Marquez, A.S. executive director, texted Ho that all business from the 68th senate would be sent to the 69th senate, Ho said.
“After this, I got incredibly overwhelmed and had an intense anxiety attack and could not even breathe because that would mean I would have to oversee a bunch of legislation along with elections results,” the statement read.
After waiting for over 20 minutes, Sandhu swore in the 13 senators who were present.
Without Ho sworn in as the Senate chair, Marquez told the senators they had the authority to elect pro-tempores to run the meeting. The senators rapidly chose Mordi Shadpour to be the first pro-tempore and Lea Toubian as the second pro-tempore.
“I think the only reason why they were chosen is because… they were the only two people that applied for that position that were the senators that were sitting there,” said Off-Campus Senator Carla Cernat.
Shadpour and Toubian then took the lead, directing the 69th Senate as they ratified the 2018 A.S. Elections results and approved Ali Suebert, the current A.S. attorney general, to serve another year-long term.
As Shadpour attempted to lead the meeting, outgoing A.S. representatives, including IVP Sandhu, stood in front of the stage, mouthing directions to the new senators.
Incoming A.S. President Brooke Kopel was the only executive candidate to be sworn in after elections results were ratified.
Ho found out through a text message from fellow Senator Andrea Reyes that the 69th senate had appointed pro-tempores in his absence, according to his statement.
“This angered me because I chose my pro-temps based who I see would work best with me and be the best assets to the office and will help me fulfill my role as the presiding officer of senate,” he wrote. “I was literally sitting in the corner trying to breath while all of this was happening. I think it was really disrespectful for the senate to do all of that and take advantage of the state I was in.”
Ho stood in the Hub as the 11 senators absent at the start of the meeting walked in at approximately 8:40 p.m.
Sandhu, outgoing senators Sophia Dycaico and Grayson Hernandez and outgoing Student Advocate General Jack Tannenbaum could be seen urging the 69th Senate to speed up the process of passing the motions.
Once all the senators were seated, Marquez took to the microphone to request that the senators who were already sworn in call for a recess to allow their peers to be officially sworn in.
Before the senators could consider the motion, chants of “Shut it down! Shut it down!” were heard coming from the second floor of the University Center. Approximately 60 students streamed down the stairs, marching toward and onto the stage that the Senate was occupying.
The newly sworn-in senators hastily adjourned the meeting as the crowd of chanting protesters stepped onstage, grabbing microphones and shouting. Many senators left the Hub altogether before the chants died down.
Justice Dumlao, a third-year Global Studies major, introduced the group of protesters.
“Just to let you know, this is an act of civil disobedience,” he said. “We are having a civil disobedience because we think that what’s happening now is illegitimate and unfair.”
Dumlao had argued as a senate proxy during last week’s meeting that the divestment resolution was directional, holding firm in his stance even after the Senate voted to uphold Sandhu’s decision to alter the resolution.
“If you are upset with what is happening, you now share our frustration with last week,” Dumlao said. “So, if you are sharing that frustration, let’s reflect on that and talk about that another time, but for right now, we are going to gather in our community and I suggest you guys [gather] in your community as well,” Dumlao said.
After Dumlao’s introduction, a young woman donning a bandana over her face stepped to the front.
“I am a Palestinian, and I have to hide my fucking face in front of all of you for the sake of my family,” she said, as Dumlao and a neighboring person rested their hands on her shoulders. She argued the resolution introduced last week did not ask anyone to take a position.
“I am in front of you, and I will not stop this fight just because all of you and your bureaucratics don’t know how to sit down at a fucking table and look at a resolution for what it is.”
Senators who walked out of last week’s meeting were disappointed with the way things went.
“[The new senators] were bombarded with a situation they never asked to be put in,” outgoing Senator Hernandez said. “I think this could’ve been settled in a very productive manner last week with accepting the agenda and finding some sort of compromise, coordination and cohesiveness with the Senate as a whole.”
“This didn’t need to happen. I wish we could’ve talked about it,” outgoing Senator Maalizadeh added.
“We’re student leaders. We need to be better than this. We need to work together. It’s going to be tough and we’re going to yell at each other; that’s fine. But don’t do this. Talk.”