Associated Students Senate voted to remove a revised version of a resolution calling for divestment from companies supporting the military occupation of Palestine from the agenda during last night’s three-hour meeting.
The motion was introduced by Off-campus Senator Alessandra Cianni early in the meeting and voted on by way of a secret ballot, resulting in an 8-7 decision to strike the resolution with no possibility for future reintroduction. The Senate was then unable to proceed with the planned discussion of next year’s budget due to the abrupt departure of four senators, which left the Senate without the requisite attendance to vote on agenda items.
The meeting was held in the Hub rather than in the Flying A room in order to accommodate the expected audience. While the number of students present did not match the hundreds that attended the previous two meetings dealing with divestment, audience turnout was still much higher than most meetings.
The title of the resolution was changed from “A Resolution to Divest from Companies that Profit from Apartheid” to “A Resolution to Divest from Companies that Profit from the Military Occupation of Palestine” in an effort to make the rhetoric more neutral.
Cianni said she motioned to remove the agenda item due to the fact that the Senate had already spent two meetings discussing the issue of divestment, and the primary purpose of last night’s meeting was to solicit input from A.S. Boards, Committees and Commissions groups on next year’s budget allocations.
The dismissal of the resolution left many planned student speakers unable to address the Senate in Public Forum. Pro-divestment audience member and student sponsor of the resolution Katlen Abuata said she felt the removal of the resolution discounted the work Abuata and others had done to take criticisms into account.
“I think that Senate perpetually silences us as students,” Abuata said. “I think that since we worked hard enough to put up another resolution, we took all of the critiques and concerns that the opposition had in regards to our resolution, and we changed it. We came in here with an open mind willing to work on the resolution in any way possible, and instead they silenced us and they just completely took the resolution off the table without discussion or even thought.”
Anti-divestment audience member Jake Speyer, who had meant to speak during public forum, supported the senate’s decision.
“Coming into this meeting, there was a lot of hesitation — I think from both sides, especially since in dealing with the divestment last week, we thought … that divestment was dealt with and that we would be able to work on pro-peace initiatives for the rest of the year,” Speyer said. “I personally am satisfied with the decision of the senate … If [the resolution] was simply brought up, and we decided that our senate doesn’t want to hear it, then that’s absolutely wrong … but it was already dealt with … the revisions that were brought up were also brought up in the last meeting.”
After Cianni’s motion passed, University Owned Senator Miya Sommers motioned to remove On-campus Senator Kevin Rudolph from the meeting, citing his failure to update his office hours on the Senate website as irresponsible. Sommers’ motion failed, at which point she and three other Senators left the meeting. Their absence left the Senate without quorum and unable to vote on other matters, such as the budget. Public Forum continued nonetheless.
A.S. President Sophia Armen addressed the Senate in Public Forum, expressing her frustration at what had occurred, especially noting what she considered a political use of the budget to undermine the divestment resolution.
“You all have literally two weeks to look at this budget and I am very frustrated by you using it politically,” Armen said. “This is the entire Association’s futurec … and now what I’m now actually afraid of, is if the possibility that something else could happen next week, we won’t be able to have the discussion that we could have had this week.”
Associate Director for Community Affairs Aaron Jones said senators need to treat each other with kindness and respect.
“If there is one thing that truly, truly pains me … is to have to watch young people like yourselves be really so mean and so cruel to one each other,” Jones said. “This level of cruelty knows no party lines, no political lines, no religious affiliation, no cultural, ethnic or gender orientation, or any other form of categorization. It is universal, it is coming from all sides, it is multidirectional. And it is truly heartbreaking to watch when you don’t have to do that. You don’t have to.”
Senators were unable to officially adjourn due to the lack of quorum. Discussion on the budget will continue next week.