By Vanessa Reis
On Wednesday, April 25, the Student Government Association (SGA) shot down a proposed bill which, if passed, would have resulted in the university no longer investing in a list of companies that have been accused of contributing to human rights violations against Palestinians.
After five hours of debate, the bill was rejected in a 25-9 vote. More than 100 students took the podium to argue either for or against the measure. Last year, a similar bill received zero votes in favor, making it significant that there were nine votes in favor this year.
The hearing received some backlash due to being scheduled during Passover, but the date was ultimately not changed. A live stream of the discussion received views from over 29 thousand Facebook users, many of whom argued amongst themselves in the comments.
Students on both sides spoke about discrimination and alienation as a result of their identity and political stances.
“As a Palestinian student on this campus, I face discrimination and intimidation solely based on my identity,” one student in favor of the bill said. Other students spoke about the rise of anti-Semitism across America.
“In the wake of this past October shooting in the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, it is evident that anti-semitism has reared its head not only in Europe but in America,” said one student arguing against the bill. She said it included “hints of anti-Semitic undertones.”
Student Fatima Younis voiced support for the bill because “BDS is neutral. BDS is not taking a stance. BDS is simply not supporting a side that has been oppressive to not only Palestinians in Palestine but also to Palestinian Americans here.”
“Divesting is taking yourself out of the situation. Being complicit is taking a side, the side of oppression,” she added. She said that she has friends who are afraid of speaking out for fear of backlash, and “by saying no to this bill it’s actually a slap in the face for all human rights and every student on campus who believes their voice matters.”
An addendum to the bill calls out companies such as Lockheed Martin, Hewlett-Packard, and General Electric, which have relationships with the university and support violence against Palestinians, according to the bill.
Jacob Glassman, a student against the passage of the bill, said there was a lack of sources and evidence in the bill. “To allege that entities have committed gross human rights violations without evidencing those claims in the bill is not only irresponsible but also slanderous and reprehensible,” Glassman said.
At several points during the debate, speaker Noah Eckman had to ask those in the crowd to refrain from making noise, clapping or holding up signs. Despite the bill’s failure to pass, students in attendance said they would continue to speak out.
Several SGA members declined to comment on the story.