The UC Santa Barbara Associated Students 74th Senate passed a bill condemning the militant group Hamas at its weekly meeting on Nov. 15 at Corwin Pavilion. The decision followed community reaction and discourse on the bill.
The passing of the resolution comes in light of the continued siege of the Gaza Strip by the state of Israel following an Oct. 7 attack on Israel by militant group Hamas.
The bill, titled “A Resolution to Condemn Hamas,” calls for Associated Students (A.S.) to “unequivocally condemn Hamas” and “mourn all civilian loss of life in Israel and Gaza as a result of the ensuing war,” as well as “denounce any celebration of the October 7th pogrom as vehemently antisemitic, anti-humanist, and morally despicable.”
The resolution passed with 16 senators voting in the affirmative, four voting against the bill and one voting to abstain.
“[The bill] is the best good faith attempt to try and answer the concerns that are brought by a complex intersection of different students,” A.S. Off-Campus Senator, Senate First President pro-tempore, second-year computer science major and bill co-author Ephraim Shalunov said during the meeting.
The vote to pass the bill followed several hours of discussion during the public forum segments of both the Nov. 8 and Nov. 15 Senate meetings, where students, faculty and community members shared their thoughts on the bill.
After the Nov. 8 meeting, the authors of the bill made several changes to the wording of the resolution to address the concerns that were brought up during public forum.
One of the changes addresses criticisms that the Senate did not name specific pro-Hamas student groups on campus, as the authors of the bill replaced the sentence “denounce the hateful rhetoric of pro-Hamas student groups as antisemitic” with “denounce any celebration of the October 7th pogrom as vehemently antisemitic.”
Additionally, rather than prompt A.S. to “recognize and honor students’ rights to free speech but vehemently condemn hate-driven dialogue, misinformation, and false equivalencies,” the bill now reads that A.S. should “find it self-evident that legitimate expressions of solidarity for the Palestinian people are distinct from endorsements of Hamas and terrorism.”
“Careful consideration went into the processing and the ultimate creation of this resolution, a lot of minds were consulted on this,” A.S. Off-Campus Senator and third-year chemistry major Eric Carlson said. “Senator Alvin Wang helped me very, very much in helping to edit it and making sure that the contents of the resolution are pretty damn good.”
Correction: The quote above references “A Resolution to Condemn Islamophobia & Antisemitism,” not the bill condemning Hamas.
Many students and community members continued to voice their disagreement with the resolution at the Nov. 15 meeting.
According to meeting attendee and fourth-year psychological & brain sciences major Jordan Murray, a group of students left the meeting during the public forum segment and gathered outside Corwin Pavilion to protest the Senate’s actions.
Murray said the situation escalated quickly, with the police ultimately being called to address the situation. The Nexus was unable to verify who called the police.
“It wasn’t a violent protest. I didn’t feel like it was necessary to call the police, I think that was kind of overkill,” Murray said. “Overall, it was a very chaotic situation to be in.”
Senate did not immediately respond to the Nexus’ request for comment on the commotion that occurred during the meeting.
Before senators officially voted on the resolution, Shalunov addressed the Senate directly about how they should approach the vote.
“The fact that this is the second week we are getting through this mind-numbing debate [is] offensive,” he said.
“I have a question for you. Do you condemn Hamas?” Shalunov asked the Senate. “If the answer is yes, vote yes. If the answer is no, vote no.”
In addition to the bill condemning Hamas, the Senate also discussed a separate bill to “Condemn Islamophobia & Antisemitism” at UCSB. However, the resolution did not pass, falling one vote short of the necessary total.
Following the meeting, several student groups at UCSB voiced their concerns with the Senate’s proceedings at the meeting.
In an email to A.S. entities, the A.S. Commission on Disability Equity (C.O.D.E.) communicated concerns about the inaccessibility of the Nov. 15 meeting with regard to the virtual option not working, as well as the alleged conduct of members of Senate leadership toward the organization’s representatives present.
“As a disabled student myself and the Co-Chair of the largest organization on campus advocating for disabled students at UCSB, I unequivocally condemn the crass, insensitive, and ableist comments espoused by senate leadership,” C.O.D.E. Internal Affairs Co-Chair Dan Siddiqui said in the email.
Siddiqui noted two instances of said comments made by members of the Senate present.
“To my dismay, the IVP responded to me in a sarcastic tone, stating that they would make a request for a summary to be read as they promised five minutes ago,” he said in the email. “Another senator openly mocked my request for a summary by re-stating a previously 10-minute statement on the Israel-Palestine situation in under a minute, saying phrases like ‘peace and love’ and “I love everyone.’”
Siddiqui emphasized the struggles of disabled students on campus.
“Disabled students at UCSB and across the country have to fight every single day to feel heard, seen, and respected; and the comments made at tonight’s meeting in response to a simple accessibility request are an unfortunate reminder of the explicit disregard and humiliation disabled students are constantly subjected to.”
Senator of Engineering and second year computer science major Alvin Wang responded to Siddiqui’s grievances in an email statement.
“I take all incidents of ableism extremely seriously. AS should always be a space of inclusivity and equity and there should be zero tolerance for language or action that challenges that core tenant,” he said in the statement. “While I stand firmly by my previous statement, I truly believe that not a single person on the stage today had the intent of limiting accessibility to disabled students or mocking disabled students.”
The Muslim Student Association (MSA) at UCSB posted a statement on Instagram in dissent of the meeting, saying that the Senate did not include input from MSA in the creation and discussion of the resolution to condemn Islamophobia.
“The Muslim Student Association at UCSB is profoundly disappointed by the complete disregard for our involvement in the discussions surrounding the recent resolution condemning Islamophobia and Antisemitism authored by AS Senators,” MSA said in the statement. “It is not only unacceptable but deeply troubling that our perspective and input were entirely overlooked.”
Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at UCSB also posted a statement from SJP alumni on Nov. 17 on Instagram expressing disagreement with the Senate’s passing of the bill condemning Hamas.
“The one sided, biased perspectives put forth by these resolutions will only serve to limit nuanced discourse around these issues and further contribute to divisions that ultimately perpetuate more harm to the aforementioned impacted communities,” the statement read.
“We call on the UCSB Senate to table these resolutions until all relevant stakeholders can be gathered to consult and collectively pen new Resolutions with the currently missing, and deeply valuable insights from these communities included.”
The Nexus was unable to verify whether the Senate responded to the statements published by SJP and MSA.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published online on Nov. 29, 2023
A version of this article appeared on p. 3 of the Nov 30, 2023, print edition of the Daily Nexus.