Judicial Council rules divestment bill violated ASUC bylaws

Council: Investment decisions must be made by ASUC Investment Committee

Benny Grush/Staff
The ASUC Judicial Council hears arguments addressing controversial divestment bill SB 160 on May 8.

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The ASUC Judicial Council has unanimously ruled parts of controversial divestment bill SB 160 unconstitutional, removing clauses that require the ASUC to divest from companies affiliated with the Israeli military.

In an opinion released Sunday, the council ruled that the ASUC Senate lacked the authority to divest ASUC funds, saying that investment decisions must be made by the ASUC Investment Committee.

The council included an updated version of the bill in their opinion, which removes about 30 words that would divest ASUC funds but preserves other parts of the bill detailing Israel’s alleged human rights violations and encouraging the UC system to divest.

“The ASUC Senate has no constitutional power to craft specific investment policies,” the opinion states. “According to the By-Laws, the only body in the ASUC with the authority and expertise to write investment policy is the Investment Committee. Thus, when the ASUC specified companies by name and issued strict directives such as ‘will divest’ in SB 160, it overstepped its legislative bounds.”

Noah Ickowitz, former SQUELCH! party chair and a former columnist for The Daily Californian, was among those who filed charges against SB 160 on April 26. He said that while other components of the bill are still problematic, he is satisfied with the decision.

“(The decision) takes out any of the concrete action items in the bill that would have an effect (to divest funds),” Ickowitz said. “Taking away the clauses asking the ASUC to divest its funds takes away the core of the bill.”

Feelings among the bill’s proponents are also optimistic. Despite some of the bill’s language being removed, they say the symbolic message of the bill remains in place.

“The final (bill) that the Judicial Council produced is nearly identical to the one we passed,” said Student Action Senator George Kadifa, who authored SB 160. “It contains all relevant clauses asking the UC to divest. The ones that were stricken were added as afterthoughts; the ASUC has no investments in companies that actually profit (from alleged violations). We’re glad it’s over.”

However, supporters also disagree with the Judicial Council’s ruling, which effectively placed the authority of senate subcommittees above the senate itself.

“To say the senate does not have the power to do something is a little funny, because the senate is what creates these subcommittees,” said Independent Senator Sadia Saifuddin, who also sits on the investment committee. “Subcommittees construct policy based on what the senate says.”

But Ickowitz said that the council’s decision represents an important check on senate overreach.

“I think the fact that it was a unanimous decision speaks to the power and voracity of the charges filed, and I think it sends a strong message that the ASUC Senate cannot overstep structures regardless of the issue or topic at hand,” Ickowitz said.

Jacob Brown is a news editor. Contact him at [email protected]