The undergraduate student government Judicial Board decided last week to not hear a petition that aimed to prevent student government officers from voting on an Israeli-related divestment resolution.
The Undergraduate Students Association Council Judicial Board declined to hear the petition because members did not think it was within the board’s jurisdiction. The Judicial Board is a student-run judicial branch of USAC, and members take cases on violations of the council’s governing documents.
Jonathan Assia, former president of Alpha Epsilon Pi, filed the petition on Nov. 14 before the USAC resolution passed with a 8-2-2 vote on Nov. 18. The measure calls for the the University of California to divest from American companies that some say profit from human rights violations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Assia, a fourth-year philosophy student, said he thinks the resolution serves no educational benefit and divides the student body.
Assia said he thinks the resolution violated the UC Board of Regents’ Policies Applying to Campus Activities, Organizations and Students, which calls for the educational benefit of student government actions to outweigh the advancement of any ideological or political views.
The November resolution was the second divestment measure different USAC officers have voted on in 2014. Many students who are against divestment from companies did not go to the November’s meeting, instead holding a separate event on the same night. However, February’s meeting – in which the Undergraduate Students Association Council rejected a similar resolution – featured nine hours of heated pubic comment, including remarks that some students said they think were incendiary.
“(The petition) was intended to protect students from what I thought was a hate speech on both sides,” Assia said.
In his petition to the USAC Judicial Board, Assia also said he thinks the resolution violates the USAC bylaws, which he says call for the council to foster interaction and dialogue among campus communities when sponsoring resolutions.
The Judicial Board, however, declined to hear the petition, saying the bylaws apply specifically to the sponsorship of student groups for official USAC recognition. The board also said it can only interpret the USAC Constitution, so it has no power to adjudicate any allegations of UC policy violations.
The board evaluated whether the case is within its jurisdiction and whether the petition included all vital information, said Matt Satyadi, chief justice of the Judicial Board.
“The danger of that is that if we were to take the case … we would be overreaching our powers,” said Satyadi, a third-year sociology student.
Rahim Kurwa, a graduate student in sociology and member of Students for Justice in Palestine at UCLA, said he thinks plenty of dialogue has been had before the councilmembers voted on the resolution.
“It showed a very limited understanding of what dialogue is,” Kurwa said. “(Opponents of the resolution) don’t feel that the dialogue that’s not on their term counts as a dialogue.”
Assia, however, said he thinks the USAC Constitution gives the Judicial Board an authority to do whatever the board pleases. He added in rejecting the case, that he thinks the board did not want to set a precedent over a controversial matter.
“(The board) have an ability to make a decision and it’s a matter of whether it wants to,” Assia said.
I do not believe that their rejection of my petition was done not to take a stance on the issue of divestment. I believe they chose not to take a case that would attract such great attention when it was such a controversial matter of jurisdiction.
Assia said he is planning to discuss the matter with Orlando Luna, the board’s adviser.