UCSA postpones divestment resolution at Saturday meeting

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In a contentious Saturday meeting, the University of California Student Association voted to postpone a resolution on divesting university funds from companies associated with the Israeli military.

Board members discussed divestment for nearly two hours — including time for public comment — before tabling the issue at the UCSA board meeting at UC Merced.

The resolution, authored in part by Students for Justice in Palestine member and UCLA graduate student Rahim Kurwa and sponsored by ASUC External Affairs Vice President Caitlin Quinn, would encourage the University of California to withdraw assets from companies that sell equipment, materials and technology to Israeli defense forces. Supporters allege that Israel has occupied Palestine and committed human rights abuses against the Palestinian people. Divestment, supporters argue, would financially disentangle the university from Israel.

If passed, the resolution would have recommended that the university divest the related funds. It comes in the wake of a number of UC student governments passing resolutions with similar goals.

According to Kevin Sabo, UCSA board chair, board members opted to delay a vote on the resolution, as many felt that they had inadequate time to take the resolutions to their respective associations due to the recent elections and the possibility of a UC tuition increase.

Still, Sabo said he preferred that the board not enter a habit of reviewing every single decision with their associations before approval, stating that it was not conducive to the UCSA’s ability to make decisions.

“We need to be cognizant of the fact that we can’t be afraid of making decisions when they come up,” Sabo said. “(Student leaders) were elected to sort of be trusted to make decisions on behalf of their constituencies, and so I think that is something we need to keep in mind.”

Michaela Fried, president of Tikvah, a Zionist campus group, said the group was not aware of the vote on the resolution or its postponement until recently.

“I texted Quinn that my community would be really disappointed if it wasn’t postponed because it gave us no time to prepare anything, no time to think about it, no time to react or respond,” Fried said.

J Street U, a national student group that supports a two-state solution, declined to comment because it did not attend the meeting.

In 2012, the UCSA received backlash after passing a resolution condemning HR 35 — a state Assembly measure designed to curb anti-Semitism at the state’s higher education institutions — claiming that the bill stifled free speech. The resolution also suggested that the university divest from Israel, alleging that it had committed human rights abuses.

The ASUC Senate passed a divestment bill in 2013 that encouraged the university to withdraw its assets from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Cement Roadstone Holdings — companies that the bill alleged supported the Israeli military.

Kurwa, who was unable to attend the meeting, said he was OK with the postponement for the sake of additional deliberation but ultimately hopes the UCSA will pass the resolution.

“If the UCSA is in the position of representing the students of the UC, the UCSA should recognize (student government votes) and carry it forward to the regents,” he said

The proposal will be considered again at the UCSA’s meeting Jan. 10 and 11 at UC Santa Cruz.

Contact Jeff Landa and Sahil Chinoy at [email protected].