Climate remains tense in wake of Landgraf’s decision not to veto

Michael Tao/File
Students, faculty and community members observe proceedings at the ASUC Senate meeting on April 17. ASUC President Connor Landgraf announced he will not veto the divestment bill passed that night.

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ASUC President Connor Landgraf announced Tuesday that he will not be vetoing SB 160, a bill calling for the divestment of ASUC funds from companies associated with the Israeli military and encouraging the university to do the same.

In a statement explaining his decision, Landgraf emphasized that he did not support the bill and that it failed to contribute to any constructive dialogue on the issue. However, he ultimately decided not to veto the bill because he felt doing so would only intensify the conflict and lengthen the healing process for the community.

“I think people on both sides may disagree with my decision,” Landgraf said. “I think it’s the best decision for the campus as a whole, and both communities need to reconsider their perspectives on this issue and reconsider the value of having a 10-hour-long senate meeting that tears communities apart.”

In an interview with The Daily Californian’s Senior Editorial Board, Chancellor Robert Birgeneau said he personally witnessed the emotional turmoil Landgraf underwent prior to making his decision.

“I met with Connor last night, late in the afternoon, mostly just to listen to him.” Birgeneau said. “He was really, really upset, justifiably so, given the threats against his person. I just tried to console him and give him advice.”

Before announcing his decision, Landgraf said he had been verbally assaulted and threatened. He said he has only received a few angry emails since his announcement was made.

Independent Senator Sadia Saifuddin, a co-sponsor of SB 160, said she commended Landgraf for respecting the senate’s decision.

“This issue is clearly one that affects countless students,” Saifuddin said in an email. “But I truly believe it is possible to build bridges in the wake of the passage of the bill.”

divestment.connor_landgrafAlthough Landgraf said he sought to hasten the campus’s healing process with his decision, many on both sides of the issue say they feel even more uneasy following his announcement.

While members of the Jewish community acknowledged the difficulty of Landgraf’s position, many said they are disappointed by his decision. Daphna Torbati, president of the campus Jewish Student Union, said she feels that Landgraf’s decision bolsters a one-sided narrative and silences the pro-Israeli voice.

“Regardless of the veto action, much of the damage has already been done,” Torbati said in an email. “Our community is very hurt and disappointed about the sheer amount of anti-semitic and anti-Israel comments made on the senate floor last week.”

Many pro-divestment students said they remain concerned about the climate on campus and that they continue to feel uneasy about expressing their views. Two weeks before the vote occurred, one pro-divestment student was assaulted on campus, allegedly for saying he believed that Israel was an apartheid state.

“The repression is so severe that we have to fear for our physical safety,” said the campus group Students for Justice in Palestine in a statement. “Our physical safety and our right to open debate are at risk.”

SJP also noted that its members feel that their advocacy has been mislabeled by opponents as hate speech.

ASUC President-elect DeeJay Pepito emphasized that all communities need to remain respectful of opposing opinions on this complex issue.

“As students, we need to take responsibility for our own actions,” Pepito said. “Poor campus climate is not determined by a piece of legislation that the senate passes. Poor campus climate is perpetuated by students using hurtful words and resorting to violent threats towards one another.”

Contact Jennie Yoon at [email protected]