Letter to the Editor: Response to ‘ASUCR actions on divestment hurt student democracy’

I am writing this letter to the editor because I read your opinions article in the Highlander called “ASUCR actions on divestment hurt student democracy.” The main reason I am responding to the article written is because I want to address some of the points you make in your article and clear up the many misconceptions you wrote about.

The first misconception you wrote is that “Our student government … (keeps) flip-flopping on something so important.” The first vote on the divestment resolution, that was presented earlier this year, was 6-7-1 and the second vote on divestment later on in the year was 8-7 in favor. If you look at the numbers you can see that the number of people who voted against the resolution remained the same. This is because the ASUCR had two senators absent for the first vote who later attended the second vote with one being absent the second vote. In regards to the one abstention, an abstention is used when someone needs more information about an issue to vote on it or has a conflict of interest. It is not counted in the final vote. No senator flipped their vote, they just showed up and voted in the second vote or received more information to make an informed decision. Also, as an ASUCR senator I find it very ridiculous that we, as senators, are supposed to keep our opinions the same for all issues and not learn and grow. For example, had Congress had the same views on flip-flopping as you in 1964, the Civil Rights Act would be nonexistent.

Second, in your article you state that “It (divestment) doesn’t really affect UC policy” and that the UC Regents will only divest when the federal government divests. This is a very close-minded and dangerous way of thinking that has kept UC students and students across the country in an apathetic coma for years. If we accept the status quo, take our classes, and remain complicit with the crimes against humanity that the world is facing nothing will change. Just because an action does not have an immediate payoff does not mean it is not worth doing. By your logic, we should not recycle or drive fuel-efficient cars because it will not stop global warming right now. This is an extreme example but the message remains the same, we are students and we are powerful. Students, specifically UC students, have been the catalysts to change from conflicts such as the Vietnam War to ending South African apartheid. Your argument shifts the burden of responsibility from us as students and individuals, blithely accepting human rights violations because only top-down solutions are valid.

Third, you make extremely narrow-minded claims about the resolution stating that the resolution “only represents half of the equation” in regards to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I have many qualms about this assertion because the resolution is not meant to target Israel. The resolution is targeting American companies that participate in human rights violations toward the Palestinian people. In your article you try to create this idea that the divestment resolution is an extension of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is not. The resolution is intended to create more transparency between the the UC and its students and to allow students to decide where their tuition goes to fund. This constant framing of divestment as an Israel versus Palestine issue is what slows down any real progress toward increasing transparency in the UC system. You mention  that the resolution “not once, (called out) any actions taken by Palestinians. You then go on to talk about rockets being launched into Israel as your prime example for “actions taken by Palestinians.” This is a very dangerous example because it portrays all the Palestinian people as militant groups and makes a dichotomy that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a conflict between the Israeli state and Palestinians, who are terrorists. This is the biggest frustration I had when reading this article. The fact that you equate the call for divestment, which is a nonviolent form of protest called upon by the Palestinian Civil Society, and militant groups is like equating Martin Luther King’s call for civil rights to the Black Panthers.

Lastly, the notion that the divestment issue has stifled “dialogue” or made it harder to reach is ridiculous. If anything, people are more aware of the issue of divestment and Israeli human rights violations after the divestment vote than before. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an emotional topic for many people but divestment is not emotional. It is purely a financial argument with a logical end to a means. The status quo has not changed the situation for the Palestinian people and will not make any change unless student governments are willing to fight for human rights on all levels, then people will want to dialogue about human rights. As students we need to stop having this apathetic attitude toward change and a self doubting nature. We are students and we are powerful.

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