Around 5 a.m. Thursday, the Associated Students Senate voted on the nicknamed “divestment” resolution, electing to vote with a secret ballot in order to prioritize student safety.

For the sixth time in seven years, it failed to pass. UC Santa Barbara is the only undergraduate UC campus that has not voted to pass the resolution.

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This year’s resolution – “A Resolution to Divest From Companies that Profit From Human Rights Violations in Israel/Palestine” – called on the Associated Students (A.S.) UCSB Advisory Committee, UCSB, the UC Treasury and the UC Regents to withdraw investments from companies that profit off of alleged human rights violations by the Israeli government against the Palestinian people.

It was authored by Letters and Science Senators Ricardo Uribe and Xochitl Briseno and was student sponsored by Dylan Kupsh and Fatima Abdel-Gwad.

The early morning vote came down to 10 yeses, 14 noes and 0 abstentions; the decision to hold a secret ballot came at the end of a 10 and a half hour Senate meeting once the senators moved into a formal discussion.

Typically, senators vote with verbal or hand signals. A secret ballot allows each senator to anonymously write their vote down on a slip of paper. The slips of paper are then counted by the Internal Vice President (IVP) and A.S. staffers.

“I respect the vote,” Uribe said to the Nexus after the meeting ended.

The bulk of the Wednesday night, Thursday morning meeting was composed of public forum, during which approximately 90 audience members spoke to their opinions about divestment. Throughout the meeting, the audience was relatively split between pro- and anti- divestment stances.

This is the first time the Senate has utilized a secret ballot to vote on divestment since 2015. Both senators and their constituents expressed concern about students being doxxed before they chose to vote with the secret ballot.

The resolution to divest was originally proposed back in 2013, when it failed 12-11-1. The resolution would also go on to fail three more times in 2014, 2015 and 2017.

Last year’s divestment resolution failed to even come to a vote after senators, IVP Jasmine Sandhu and A.S. Attorney General Ali Suebert disagreed on whether the resolution was directional or positional, throwing the Senate into a debate that ended with 12 senators walking out and never returning.

The resolution later termed out at the 68th Senate’s last meeting.

This year, current A.S. Attorney General Zeina Safadi spoke midway through public forum about how, after combing through this year’s resolution specifically, her office concluded that it was directional, meaning that it only needed 50% + 1 votes. If it was considered a positional resolution, it would have required a two-thirds majority to pass.

She also clarified the rules regarding abstention votes, and said that senators who abstained would have their votes counted in the majority.

The resolution’s student sponsors emphasized that this year’s resolution was not affiliated with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. However, this was a point of contention with several senators at the table, who noted that the resolution referenced BDS resolutions that had passed at other universities.

Several senators – including On-Campus Senator Lea Toubian and proxy Noah Fleishman – left the vote crying. Both had spoken at length during the discussion about their personal experiences with anti-Semitism and how they feel unsafe on campus, noting several anti-Semitic incidents that have occurred in recent weeks.

Toubian and Fleishman both spoke several times through the meeting against the resolution.

“I firmly believe this resolution provides a platform for hate,” Toubian said around 4 a.m.

Fleishman echoed similar sentiments: “If we go to a secret ballot, understand the safety of the Jewish community is in your hands.”

Several senators and public forum speakers called the resolution inherently anti-Semitic and asked what tangible change it would provide for Palestinian students on campus.

Off-Campus Senator Christian Ornelas emphasized throughout the meeting that A.S. UCSB had money invested in the companies listed, and public forum speakers and the student sponsors said that they did not want their tuition money to “fund the oppression of Palestinian people.”

The call to divest from A.S. UCSB investments was also the reason why Safadi argued that this year’s resolution was directional, in comparison to previous years, which did not have this specific call to action.

Further coverage can be viewed below:

Arturo Martinez and Katherine Swartz contributed reporting.

Updated [12:33 p.m.]


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