Thursday, September 19

Submission: USAC treatment of ethical investment policy resolution fails to display unity

I am disappointed that at last week’s Undergraduate Students Association Council meeting, many student council members were unwilling to pass a resolution supporting an ethical investment policy at UCLA. The USAC Resolution for Ethical Investments is in the interests of all students on campus and is based on widespread public support for policies favoring human rights, workers’ rights and environmental sustainability.

Rather than passing this resolution last Tuesday, the council chose to table it. When this resolution is reintroduced at the council, USAC members should choose to support its sponsors, External Vice President Lana Habib El-Farra, Cultural Affairs Commissioner Taylor Mason and Community Service Commissioner Anees Hasnain, in passing the resolution.

If this bill passes, it will empower students by enabling them to investigate and challenge university investments that affect their communities. A similar resolution passed by the undergraduate student government at UC Berkeley enabled students to better determine the university’s decision to invest in corporations that profit from prison systems, which disproportionately hurts communities of color.

An ethical investments resolution at UCLA could apply the same concept of deliberating divestment from companies with unethical practices.

Passing this resolution allows students to question where our investments are going. For instance, such a resolution would encourage the UCLA community to think critically about divesting from companies who benefit from exploiting undocumented workers. If it is found that our university has financial ties to companies involved in deportations or who profit from deportations, students who are affected by this issue are empowered to question these investments and call for an immediate stop.

But this is just one example of many possible positive steps toward a better commitment to ethical investments. It will allow us to remove our funds from major environmental polluters as well as corporations that mistreat workers, strengthening past efforts at responsible practices such as the Alta Gracia and Fair Trade coffee campaigns.

We know that it is possible or even likely that our university is invested in companies whose practices fail to match our principles. It is our responsibility to scrutinize our investments to make sure that our tuition does not support those activities. To do any less would be failing to live up to our True Bruin values, which state that we must be accountable for our actions and that we should respect the rights and dignity of others.

I question the collective goals of the current council and whether they have been as unified as they should be. When I served as a general representative on the council last year, I noticed a lack of connection and communication between council members. I hoped that this would not have been the case this year, but unfortunately, the discussion at last week’s meeting failed to recognize the unity on campus around human rights, workers’ rights and environmental sustainability.

Why have so many USAC members attempted to silence student voices and hinder important and insightful discussions that could help us all flourish?

Specifically, USAC recently voted down the Bruin Diversity Initiative, that will help contribute to a healthier campus climate for all students through strengthening access, retention and community service efforts. USAC should have voted to place the student-initiated referendum on the ballot for the students to decide.

Fortunately, these communities of students were able to gather more than enough petition signatures to get the referendum placed on the ballot this spring. Instead of tabling bills on human rights and voting against the student-initiated Bruin Diversity Initiative, our representatives should all support students and take firm stances on these issues.

While the majority of the council members didn’t acknowledge the students of many communities that support the resolution, including Afrikan Student Union, Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano/a de Aztlán, Pakistani Students Association, Armenian Students Association, Queer Alliance and Muslim Students Association, Lana Habib El-Farra, along with the two other council members who sponsored the resolution, did her job as a student advocate by addressing a very universal issue that affects people globally and at our university.

Like El-Farra, I, as a past council member, understood that when I was asked to bring to council an issue or resolution that could directly or indirectly affect students, I should not worry about the debate that could ensue because we are UCLA Bruins who are mature and critical enough to engage in heated debates that have the potential to turn into healthy and productive discussions.

This was clearly a missed opportunity, and one that will be remedied in the coming weeks either through conscious discussions, or by electing a new council in May.

Smith is a fifth-year world arts and cultures student and last year’s Undergraduate Students Association Council General Representative 3.

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  • DebateBeforeDecision

    While I wholeheartedly agree with the points made, one detail is glaringly absent. This resolution included divestment from Israel. Passing this resolution would have alienated the entire UCLA Jewish community. Divestment is an important issue, but we need honest, inclusive, and open debate before a decision like this is made. As members of the UCLA community we need to take a closer look at our schools investment, but lets do it in a way that doesnt marginalize our peers.

    • MakeSureYouReadTheResolution!

      Correction: The resolution did NOT include divestment from Israel. In fact, when it was brought to the council, the only clause mentioning Israel (along with many other examples) was removed immediately by Lana in order to not marginalize anyone that felt uncomfortable with the clause that listed many examples of past USAC resolutions.

    • Sigh

      If you actually read the resolution, you would see that there is nothing in there about divesting from Israel!! It’s sad to see that such an important resolution involving human rights, worker rights, and environmental sustainability has been framed as an Israel v. Palestine debate.

      • RepresentEveryone!

        The resolution most certainly did include Israel in it: “the offensive on gaza”.

        And the word “offensive” is just that, offensive. The resolution marginalized the Jewish community, for as they see it, it didn’t exactly happen that way.

        Council members like Lana need to stop acting on behalf of communities that they don’t even address on a regular basis.

        Those who opposed this bill know that of course it has good intentions — preventing our tuition from supporting the exploitation if workers, the environment, etc — but once it mentions a certain community that has been underrepresented, the bill must wait until it represents the FULL Ucla consensus.

        Hopefully at the forum in Monday, both sides will be able to come up with a solution that supports the rights of workers and the environment, and acknowledges that ucla does not support companies profiting from violations of human rights, while at the same time, does not marginalize any single community on campus.

    • The Truth

      I agree. You cannot really trust these people. They could use this resolution as a backdoor and create some loophole to spout more Anti-Israel/Anti-Semitic nonsense. I noticed the Pakistani Student Association signed on. Maybe they are anxious to spew some anti-India/anti-Hindu garbage. Be very careful about supporting these resolutions. In the Quran there is something called taqqiya and kitman, which permit followers of Allah to lie (or purposefully omitting a fact) to infidels to advance the cause of Islam. Google it if you don’t believe me.

      • REAGAN_3012

        People who equate criticism of Israel with anti-semitism fail to acknowledge the diversity of opinions within Israel, as well as silence those American Jews who are against the occupation. While it is easy to homogenize Israel and all Jews, a more nuanced analysis would be closer to the reality on the ground. Whether or not companies are profitting from the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank (the occupation is considered illegal by the United Nations) is up for debate, but if it is found that there are human rights abuses then Israel should not be exempt. In the past, we (UCLA) have divested from companies profitting from apartheid in South Africa, and we divested from companies violating human rights in Sudan during the Darfur crisis. As mentioned in the article above, we have shown our commitment to workers’ rights through the Alta Gracia and Fair Trade coffee campaigns. It is funny how quick you call anti-semitism on a resolution that is about human rights and environmental sustainability, and then in the next sentence you say something Islamophobic.

        • The Truth

          There you go with the Islamophobia charge acting as if Islamophobes have some sort of moral failing. They do not. You use it as a phony response to any comment that criticizes the Middle East or Islamic countries. Why is there no divestment in Saudi, Dubai, and other Middle Eastern companies that use poor Hindu and Buddhist workers from India, Nepal, and Bangladesh and treat them like garbage and rape and exploit them?? It is amazing you phony ‘multiculturalists’ are ALWAYS silent on the Middle Eastern based companies, but love to harp on Israel and Sudan cause its ‘the cool thing to do’. College punks always gotta be cool I guess.

    • DebateBeforeDecisionIndeed

      Divesting from the government of Israel is not anti-Semitic in any way. The government illegally bulldozes the homes of Arab families who had lived there for centuries.
      If you claim that it’s anti-Semitic, then it implies that Israel, the oft-called “Jewish state,” is a theocracy. My personal thoughts on theocracy aside, it’s difficult to defend any nation that explicitly makes its laws based on a religion and then subjects all citizens to it (e.g. subjecting foreigners to Sharia law, U.S. Republicans subjecting non-religious folk to anti-gay legislation).

  • unity

    Would it have been a better display of unity if council completely ignored the thousands of students with different perspectives on these issues? There is already unanimous support for workers’ rights and environmental sustainability; ire was raised only in response to the resolution’s mention of events taking place in the Middle East, which is an issue close to the heart of many Bruins. Tabling and discussing those parts of the resolution further with the broader UCLA community is a step toward unity, not disunity.

  • Anonymous

    “the majority of the council members didn’t acknowledge the students of many communities that support the resolution, including Afrikan Student Union, Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano/a de Aztlán, Pakistani Students Association, Armenian Students Association, Queer Alliance and Muslim Students Association”

    UCLA demographics are:

    American Indian or
    Alaska Native 157 0.56%
    Black Non-Hispanic 1,083 3.88%
    Asian or Pacific Islander 9,954 35.63%
    Hispanic 4,799 17.18%
    White, Non-Hispanic 8,115 29.04%
    unstated, unknown, other 938 3.36%
    international 2,895 10.36%

    Where is the representation of the White, Non-Hispanic group? They make up 29.04% of the student body’s population. These small communities on campus should not have the power to voice legislation over the entire student body. USAC did a great job striking down the diversity spending in order to maintain UCLA’s culture and the 29%.

    • Amerikkka


      • Anonymous

        Right on. Enough of this cultural erosion perpetuated by ethnic student groups.

        • Jason Smith

          Ethnic? Like Jewish folks?!

          • Anonymous

            What do you mean by that?

          • Jason Smith

            Aren’t Jewish people an ethnic minority? Semite, look up the origin/etymology of the word.

        • Amerikkka

          Uh…….that was sarcasm, but now we know that you’re a bigot.

    • Tired of ignorance

      So let me get this straight. You say the 30% have more say than a combined 70% that agree? How does that make any sense?

      Why shoud that 30% dictate the legislation being passed when they would be in the minority?

      • Anonymous

        Negative. I am saying why should these small student minority groups command a power over the whites? Why is it always ignorance to bring up white interests?

  • Really?

    “The USAC Resolution for Ethical Investments is in the interests of all students on campus and is based on widespread public support for policies favoring human rights, workers’ rights and environmental sustainability.”

    Don’t ever try to tell me what is in my best interest. As evidenced by the 50+ students in the room, this resolution was not seen as being in many students’ best interests.

    This is a political move to get Council to vote against “human rights,” and it failed. Move on.

    Not to mention the decision to table the resolution was made unanimously.

  • just STOP

    Lana, you have abused your power on council. You have a record of bringing up resolutions and stances on issues a little nearly too late to have anyone have a say. We know you were livid about having the referendum voted down and about having that sad excuse of a resolution (that supposedly represented all students) voted down as well. I can only imagine that these are the two reasons you’re running again this year – out of spite. Lana I rooted for you. I have lost all respect in your decisions and the way you’ve chosen to run EVP this year. You do not deserve another year on council #shame

    • Jason Smith

      Who is this? You sound really salty and jaded. Please handle your personal business privately with this individual. Don’t hide behind your computer screen. We’re all adults. People are really funny. You see that I put my name with all my statements. TRANSPARENCY!!!

    • TeamLana

      Since when has standing up for what you believe in and being an advocate and an ally for underrepresented communities equate with power abuse? Lana has a right to feel so passionately about this resolution and the referendum bc they are issues that affect students on this campus! And who are you to assume why a candidate is running again? Her deciding to run again bc she continues to care so deeply about the issues she has always stood for IS NOT running out of spite. If anything, running because you are passionate about issues that affect students (whether or not you agreed with said issues) is THE RIGHT REASON to be running!! This past year has proven why we need people like her on council to represent the voices of students who are DEFINITELY NOT represented by our BU council members!!! We don’t need any more politicians.

  • Nancy

    I like the idea of “ethical investments” but wholeheartedly disagree with divestiture singling out Israel and its people. USAC must carefully word an ethical investment resolution/divestment resolution. Specifically define ethical. Many Fortune 100 companies act unethically, IMO the health insurance industry fucks us over daily as does the fossil fuel industry. This is a difficult issue.I would also think hard about how effective investment or divestment would be. I realize it would make an important statement, but would you be making a difference? You’re talking about companies worth billions of dollars. Is there a more effective way you can accomplish your goals? As a former Bruin, I’m thrilled that USAC took out the divestment language and tabled it indefinitely. Careful thought as well as listening to the views of all student groups–religious, nations, environmental, public policy, public health, etc.–is required. GO BRUINS!!!