Settlement of charges against divestment bill SB 160 to remove major clauses

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Charges that questioned the constitutionality of controversial divestment bill SB 160 were settled Thursday morning when an agreement removing a significant portion of the bill was reached.

The settlement calls for the removal of clauses in SB 160 that dealt with ASUC investments and appropriations. It effectively thwarts the ASUC’s effort to divest its own funds from companies involved in Israel’s alleged “human rights abuses” against Palestinians, leaving a purely symbolic piece of legislation that requests similar divestment by the UC Regents.

The charges that brought about the settlement claimed that the bill was not approved by the proper committees and should have been passed by a two-thirds vote instead of a simple majority.

“I think SB 160 has lost a lot of weight through this settlement,” said Noah Ickowitz, SQUELCH! party chair and a former columnist for The Daily Californian. “The bill that passed is now a completely different bill once these clauses are stricken. It loses almost all its authority. I hope the public understands that this is no longer ASUC divestment.”

Chancellor Robert Birgeneau said in a public statement that the passage of SB 160 would in no way affect the investment policies of the university.

The settlement, which is pending approval by the Judicial Council, was reached between Attorney General Hinh Tran — representing the ASUC — and Ickowitz and former external affairs vice president Joey Freeman. Tran, who was tasked with defending the ASUC in the matter, conceded the legitimacy of the constitutionally grounded charges against SB 160 but added that in his opinion, the charges did not have enough merit to warrant nullifying the bill.

“It’s a sign on cooperation and compromise on a very difficult bill,” Tran said.

Student Action Senator George Kadifa, who authored the bill, disagreed that the settlement watered down the bill in any way, emphasizing that the purpose of the bill has been largely symbolic since its inception.

“The settlement changes very, very little about the bill,” Kadifa said. “A part of the reason (we were willing to compromise) was that the ASUC wasn’t invested in any of these companies. That wasn’t the main focus. All language calling for the UC Regents to divest is still in the bill.”

While the settlement represented a compromise between the parties involved, it was not necessarily a consensus of the affected communities.

Despite being on the opposite side of the divestment debate, Jewish Student Union President Daphna Torbati agreed that the settlement did not really change the essence of the original bill.

“Although this is definitely a change in the right direction, these changes are largely inconsequential, as the bill still contains the same sentiments that ignore much of the Israeli narrative,” she said.

Both Tran and Ickowitz said they believe that the settlement reflects an important ability to compromise on an issue that has been divisive. They echoed a sentiment similar to that of ASUC President Connor Landgraf when he announced that he would not veto the bill in an effort to expedite the campus’s healing process.

“Not going through a hearing definitely helps campus climate,” Ickowitz said. “We really don’t need a trial right now, and the settlement avoided a big public spectacle. I’m sure there are people in both communities left unsatisfied, but in this case, I’m sure it was the right decision.”

Contact Jeremy Gordon at [email protected].