Divestment Vote Postponed

Around 200 students turned out at Price Center Ballroom East last night to watch A.S. Council vote on a divestment resolution, though no vote ever took place.

The resolution, proposed by the Students for Justice in Palestine and sponsored by Arts and Humanities Senator Sean Estelle and Associate Vice President of Diversity Affairs Elizabeth Garcia, called for UCSD to divest from corporations profiting from the “illegal siege, blockade and occupation of Palestine.”

The council meeting last night spanned eight hours and was cut short because of a miscommunication between A.S. Council and the security firm hired to oversee the event. Speaker John Weng was forced to gavel the meeting adjourned at 2:07 a.m. because council did not vote to bring the bill into question before everyone was forced to leave the meeting room.

Council will re-address this topic next week at its normal meeting time after a motion to table the rest of the meeting until tonight at 6:30 p.m. failed. A separate vote, also held during the final seconds of the meeting on whether or not to vote on the resolution itself failed, and Weng asked everyone to exit the facility.

Only 140 community members were allowed into the room at one time, and a line around 50 people long snaked out past the front door in the early hours of the meeting.

The first portion of the meeting included a limited hourlong public input session before organizations SJP and Tritons for Israel conducted their special presentations.

 Approximately 150 students spoke during public input over two weeks of sessions through the use of an online speaker sign-up system, moderated by Associate Vice Presient of Student Services John Weng.

 “This is not an issue that A.S. has a right to make for the people, the campus, the students of UCSD,” senior Mikhail Imanovich said during public input. “This marginalizes the Jewish students on campus and makes them feel unsafe and unwanted — passing a resolution that will have no actual effect besides making Jewish students on campus feel like they don’t belong is not okay.”

 Students who opposed the resolution were also present, as were organizations and those who stood in solidarity with the issue.

“What I do know is Palestinians are not terrorists — we’re all individuals, and we should know how to respect each other and their opinions,” a junior Eleanor Roosevelt College student who identified herself as Annie said. “Please don’t make me regret not going to UCI if you want to vote no on divestment. I’m pro-humanity, and as someone who is pro-humanity, I would like A.S. to vote yes on divestment.” 

One week prior to last night’s meeting, A.S. Council held a public input forum in the Institute of the Americas, which continued for four hours and drew over 250 students, faculty and community members. As a result of the length of last week’s meeting, the special presentations and resolution vote were moved to last night’s meeting.

Due to a stipulation made by A.S. Council the previous week, TFI presented first. Each group was given 20 minutes for its special presentation, with the possibility of extensions as determined by A.S. President Meggie Le. 

In their presentation, three members from TFI spoke about their vision for a two-state solution, their separation and opposition from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, as well as their belief that the Jewish people have a right to their homeland.

TFI also emphasized its hope to continue the divestment discussion with A.S. Council and SJP, asking council to form a committee whose role would be to discuss the resolution with groups including SJP, TFI and J Street U with an ultimate goal of reaching a more agreeable resolution.

“It divides the campus, it polarizes the campus; it’s bad for the name and reputation of our university,” TFI president Benjamin Hass said of the resolution. “Passing this resolution will label UCSD as a supporter of BDS. It does nothing to advance the peace process.”

SJP began its presentation by describing the necessity of divesting from companies such as Caterpillar. The group showed images of Caterpillar’s D9 armored bulldozer and described its role in both leveling Palestinian-owned buildings and the death of an American student activist, Rachel Corrie. 

SJP also mentioned past instances of divestment successes, referencing Nelson Mandela’s crediting of the UC system’s $3 billion divestment from South Africa as a factor in ending apartheid in the 1980s.

“It’s a common misconception that divestment is too harsh and that we should just invest in Palestine instead,” a representative said. “But Palestine’s economy is tightly controlled by Israel and heavily dependent on humanitarian aid, making it an unlikely candidate for growth through investment.”

Members of UC Irvine’s A.S. Council spoke in support of SJP by describing the positive effects of passing divestment on their campus. UC Riverside also passed a divestment resolution on March 6, 2013.