A heated debate broke out at Tuesday’s Senate meeting after Student Body President Andy Rodriguez and Vice President Michael Malanga officially vetoed the divestment resolution.
“We believe that bringing a topic as polarized and politically driven as this into the realm of Student Government serves only to divide the Student Body and disparage students with opposing viewpoints, instead of uniting our students,” Rodriguez and Malanga’s memo said.
Students on both sides of the debate shared their thoughts on the resolution; speaking from personal experience, research and opinions on the matter. A few senators also joined the debate, speaking heatedly on both sides.
“It is a complete honor to support the resolution that supported 10,000 student voices,” Senate President Pro-Tempore Danish Hasan said. “We’re springing away from the debate, but the fact is that this was a mere recommendation to the USF Foundation to divest from anything from pornography to fossil fuels, from private corporations that are investing in human rights violations.
“For me, Palestine is what women suffered in the 1920s. For me, Palestine is what Civil Rights was in the 1960s. For me, Palestine is what apartheid in South Africa was in the 1990s.”
Students in favor of the resolution stated it would allow students to see the investments of the university and to create a platform to raise concerns about the ethics behind some investments.
“I want to discuss how, if any country poses any human rights violations, any crimes against humans, as student we have the right to voice our opinions,” an unidentified student said. “We are accountable for our own university and we shouldn’t let our own university invest funds in countries that prevent human beings from enjoying their unalienable rights.
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is classified as a global movement by bdsmovement.net that’s campaigning against Israel until it complies with international law and Palestinian rights. The Palestinian Civil Society started the movement in 2005 hasn’t been condoned by the Palestinian National Authority.
“I have a question that may not exactly have an easy answer,” a second unidentified student said “If the resolution presented in this very room last week wasn’t meant to be anti-Semitic and solely for the purposes of human rights, why is it that the only country condemned for human rights violations was Israel?
“I would appreciate it if the people making decisions in my name would be more considerate of all cultures attending this school. Which, unfortunately for many, includes Israelis.”
Although many speakers discussed the polarity of the issue a few brought up the possibility of a compromise between the Palestinian people and the leaders of Israel.
“I’m a student, I’m Jewish, and I’m pro-Palestine,” a third unidentified student said. “I’m also pro-Israel, because those are not mutually exclusive. It is possible to be for two states for two people. It is possible, if you say you support human rights, to criticize the Palestinian society.”
Despite the hostile environment of the debate, a handful of senators spoke up in approval, appreciating the chance to hear differing student opinions.
“I like this better than last week. It’s very nice hearing both sides of the argument,” Sen. Brendon Green said. “This way we can hear both sides about what students on campus think. No one is overpowering anyone. I just want to say this is what we should be about: hearing both sides and hearing what they both think.”
If the resolution is presented to the Senate again and receives a two-thirds vote in favor, Rodriguez and Malanga’s veto could be overridden.
“I have not received the resolution, but I’ve been told that it will be coming to my desk at some point,” Faculty Senate President Michael Teng said. “What we will do is once it comes to me, we will review it at the senate executive meeting and see if there are things we need to discuss with the full senate.”