There are two approaches to establishing an official referendumon a USF student ballot.
The first approach requires the approval of three USF senators followed by a vote of approval from the senate body. The second approach involves directpetitioning of the USF student body by the proponent organization. Once a certain threshold is met (20 percent of the previous election turnout), the proposed action is eligible for ballot.
The most recent referendum proposed to the USF Student Body by the Students for Justice in Palestine organization was advertised as Divestment From Corporations Affiliated with Human Rights Violations.
Its subhead reads to bepraiseworthy and emotionally appealing: Would you support the USF Student Government in adhering to the principles of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that
injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere?
Below it are a few options: Yes, No and No Preference.
There is a small detail tab that permits the voter to read an in-depth explanation of the proposed measure, which reveals the rather misleading, and possibly unethical, implications. The referendum seems like a no-brainer, intentionally infused with the essence of Martin Luther King Jr. and his inspirational rhetoric to advocate for a boycott against all injustices, everywhere. Any rational, empathetic student would feel immoral not voting for such progressive proposals, feeling it futile to read further into the details.
But under the guise, MLKs enlightenedwisdom is the false pretenses of a seemingly political agenda.
In the details section, the referendum goes on to quote documents from the United Nations 1976 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. It continues to state, subjectively, that such definitions befit the plight of the Palestinian people and proposes divestment of companies associated not with injustices everywhere, but simply associated with the state of Israel, a misconstruction that violates Chapter VII, section 708.3 of the USF SGA Statutes Election which states:
No candidate or party shall misrepresent any material fact in campaign material or incampaigning in any form.
The violation becomes more evident as the description reads further, claiming Palestinian people constitute the largest refugee population in the world, and while the suffering of the Palestinian people is a stark reality, this statement is in contradiction to a UN refugee report that lists Afghans and Iraqis as the largest contributors to the global refugee pool.
The description continues to vaguely implicate the Israeli people in the massacre, looting and destruction that resulted in the Palestinian depopulation. It further presents a list of corporations affiliated with Israel (Sabra Hummus, Hewlett Packard and Wellington Small cap) that the organization believes to be contributing to the Palestinian crisis and calls for divestment. Some products produced by the aforementioned companies are often used and highly demanded by the USF student body.
The inherent discrepancybetween the referendumssub-heading proposal and its detailed intent is less unethical(even by USF electionguidelines) than it is ethnocentricand disparaging.
It makes no mention of divestment from companies of products made in China (such as those sold in the campus computer orbookstore), which have been cited for egregious abuse of employers in sweatshops as well as the use of child labor. Nor does it remotely hint at the injustices of Middle Eastern nations that supply the United States with oil. The student body election and referendum vote is set to end today. Meticulous measures have been taken to ensure the validity, accuracy and fairness of campaigning. All referendums, even thoseproposed via student petitioning,are required to be presented with the utmost clarity and objective, honest intent.
Konstantin Ravvin is a senior majoring in biomedical sciences.