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.