SJP announces campaign for new divestment resolution
November 3, 2014 4:59 am
The original version of this article contained information that was unclear and has been changed. See the bottom of the article for additional information. This post was updated on Nov. 15 at 1:36 p.m.
Students for Justice in Palestine members plan to bring a new divestment resolution to the undergraduate student government in coming weeks.
The group brought an unsuccessful divestment resolution before last year’s Undergraduate Students Association Council in February, which called for the University of California to divest from several companies that some say profit from human rights violations of Gaza and the West Bank.
Omar Zahzah, president of Students for Justice in Palestine, said the group’s members think certain companies, including Caterpillar Inc. Cemex, Cement Roadstone Holdings, General Electric Co. and Hewlett-Packard Co., provide services and products that violate the human rights of Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
A representative from Hillel at UCLA declined to comment for this article. Bruins for Israel members could not be reached for comment for this article.
Students for Justice in Palestine’s new resolution, which is expected to go to council seventh week, will push for the University to divest, and may include several new companies, including Boeing Co., General Dynamics Corp. and United Technologies Corp., among others. Organization members added the new companies to the resolution because they didn’t know the UC invested in them until recently, Zahzah said.
The exact language of the resolution is not yet confirmed and may be amended based on student feedback in the next weeks, according to a press release from the group.
USAC President Devin Murphy said he plans to look at different options the council can use to address the resolution.
He said council may have student groups, rather than individual students, give brief presentations at the council meeting about how the resolution will affect their constituents. Last year, public comments for a similar resolution lasted about nine hours.
Murphy added that council may look into limiting the use of video cameras during public comment and voting to protect the safety of councilmembers and public commenters.
Last year, councilmembers voted by secret ballot on the resolution after taking multiple straw votes. Murphy said he will research the use of secret ballots in Robert’s Rules of Order, the guidelines by which governing bodies operate. If Robert’s Rules restrict the use of secret ballots, Murphy said council will operate accordingly.
The group announced its divestment campaign and Palestine Awareness Week on its Web page on Monday. Along with the launch of the campaign, group members will have an online forum for student input and feedback. Zahzah said he thinks the forum will allow the resolution to be representative of the many voices, identities and opinions across campus.
“Every divestment campaign is a learning process,” Zahzah said. “The events are also ways to give input, but the online forum is something new we want to try to be attentive to student opinions.”
On Nov. 10, the organization plans to hold a town hall in which people can follow up on their input in person and voice questions or concerns about divestment.
During Palestine Awareness Week from Monday to Thursday, the student group also plans to put on several informational events about the divestment resolution. The group will hold film screenings, discussions and other events meant to educate students about divestment and the specifics of the resolution.
Last school year, some councilmembers and students involved in Bruins for Israel and Hillel at UCLA said they thought the previous resolution was divisive and harmful to campus climate, but Zahzah said he disagrees.
“It’s true that this issue makes people uncomfortable, but it also brings a lot of people from different communities together to work for universal rights and justice,” Zahzah said.
Before a resolution can go to council, at least three USAC officers must sign on as sponsors, according to USAC bylaws.
Murphy said he thinks Students for Justice in Palestine should reach out to councilmembers from different slates to gain more widespread support.
“It is an opportunity to utilize the largely independent council,” Murphy said.
Zahzah said Students for Justice in Palestine members want to start campaigning early to ensure that students and councilmembers have enough time to understand the resolution before it goes to a vote.
Contributing reports by Kendal Mitchell, Bruin staff.
Clarification: The original version of this article included an unclear description of the resolution USAC councilmembers voted down last year.