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UC Santa Cruz student government votes for divestment from occupation-linked companies

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The push to garner campus endorsements of calls to divest from Israeli occupation-linked corporations scored another success this week when the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) student government voted in favor of a resolution authored by the Committee for Justice in Palestine (CJP).

By a vote of 22-14, the UCSC Student Union Assembly (SUA) endorsed a resolution urging the University of California to divest from companies that “profit from and/or support many of Israel’s ongoing human rights violations.”  The vote made Santa Cruz the fifth UC chapter to endorse divestment in recent years.

The clear majority in favor of divestment surprised members of CJP.  Last year, a similar divestment resolution was voted down 17-19.  And some officers of the student government have gone on free trips to Israel sponsored by organizations that vehemently oppose divestment, a practice that has become a contentious issue on UC campuses.

In a press release, CJP laid out what happened at the student government meeting:

While official discussion of the Divestment Bill was scheduled at 11PM, a SUA member motioned at approximately 8:15 to indefinitely table the bill. The motion failed. After addressing the Graduate Student Association’s appeals to condemn administrative intimidation efforts towards students in the April strike, as well as the Compassionate University Resolution and SUA budget, the Divestment testimonials were initiated at 11:30 PM.

Following the three hour debate, the first SUA vote on the resolution revealed widespread support for Divestment landing just shy of the necessary two-thirds majority. SUA representatives then voted to suspend the SUA bylaw dictating a two-thirds majority, instead requiring only a simple majority vote to pass the resolution.

The divestment resolution was supported by a wide coalition of student groups, including the Muslim Student Association, the Queer Student Union, and Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA), a Chicano student group.

The resolution was opposed by groups like the AMCHA Initiative, a right-wing Zionist organization known for attacking professors who speak out on Palestine and criticize Israel.

The AMCHA Initiative is run by Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, a Hebrew lecturer at UCSC. Last year, she came under fire for claiming that Palestine solidarity activists on campus were linked to terrorist groups.

In January, the Electronic Intifada‘s Nora Barrows-Friedman and Asa Winstanley revealed that a Santa Cruz student working with Benjamin had monitored students during a delegation to Israel/Palestine.  The AMCHA Initiative compiled the information the student gathered into a report that paid particular attention to those sympathetic to Palestinians.

Alex Kane
About Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist who focuses on Israel/Palestine and civil liberties. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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10 Responses

  1. just
    just on May 29, 2014, 12:57 pm

    Yeah UC Santa Cruz!

    It’s so critical to “garner campus endorsements”! DePaul Divest also had grand success by opening the vote to the student body.

    I think this strategy is brilliant. As in most things, leaving the crucial decisions up to ‘elected’ leaders only is NOT smart.

    • Ron Edwards
      Ron Edwards on May 30, 2014, 9:22 am

      I agree with your intended (concluding) point, but you’re confusing me – the DePaul vote was a student body referendum, but the UCSC vote *was* a student government vote. I think your point is still supported when I look at the details of the vote: first swings this way, then that way except not by 2/3, then they vote to shelve the 2/3 … so tortuous.

  2. Krauss
    Krauss on May 29, 2014, 2:43 pm

    From what I can tell it is a non-binding resolution? The phrase you use is “urging”, not commanding or forcing.

    This is better than nothing, but more needs to be done. And as usual, the major threat is typically campus presidents, under heavy Zionist pressure from the donor class, who are usually forced to veto something to save dollars for the university.

    That won’t change until the drums of change become overwhelming and they can no longer afford to alienate a large part of the student body.

    • Krauss
      Krauss on May 29, 2014, 2:44 pm

      PS, most of the action seems to be in either California, Michigan or Illinois or small liberal arts colleges like Vassar.

      Does anyone know how things are looking at Harvard, Yale or Princeton? We hear surprisingly little from those places, how is the BDS movement doing there?

      • Citizen
        Citizen on May 29, 2014, 5:04 pm

        Good question since we all know that Israel is focusing on the top ivy league student brains as recipients of Israel’s PR efforts. Those are the ones selected to get free trips to Israel., so they can be manipulated, same as new young US Congress critters.

  3. Zach S
    Zach S on May 29, 2014, 2:49 pm

    That makes a total of 13 schools voting down BDS resolutions versus 5 that voted in favor of them. Truly we can see which one is “the right side of history.”

    • just
      just on May 29, 2014, 7:17 pm

      They’ve only just begun, Zach.

      History teaches us much.

      From wiki:

      “University campuses

      The anti-Apartheid disinvestment campaign on campuses began on the West coast and Midwest in 1977 at Michigan State University and Stanford University.[5][6] It had some early successes in 1978 at Michigan State University, which voted total divestiture [1],[7] at Columbia University.;[8] and the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Following the Michigan State University divestiture in 1978, in 1982, the State of Michigan Legislature and Governor voted for divestiture by all of the more than 30 State of Michigan colleges and universities, an action later struck down as unconstitutional by the Michigan Court of Appeals in response to a suit against the Act by the University of Michigan [2].

      The initial Columbia divestment, focused largely on bonds and financial institutions directly involved with the South African regime.[9] It followed a year long campaign first initiated by students who had worked together to block the appointment of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to an endowed chair at the University in 1977.[10] Broadly backed by a diverse array of student groups and many notable faculty members the Committee Against Investment in South Africa held numerous teach-ins and demonstrations through the year focused on the trustees ties to the corporations doing business with South Africa. Trustee meetings were picketed and interrupted by demonstrations culminating in May 1978 in the takeover of the Graduate School of Business.[11][12]

      These initial successes set a pattern which was later repeated and many more campuses across the country. Activism surged in 1984 on the wave of public interest created by the wide television coverage of the then recent resistance efforts of the black South Africans.

      Students organized to demand that their universities “divest”, meaning that the universities were to cease investing in companies that traded or had operations in South Africa. At many universities, many students and faculty protested in order to force action on the issue. The first organized Anti-Apartheid Organization on University Campuses in the United States was CUAA founded at the University of California Berekeley and as a result of the actions of one of its principle organizers with support from Nelson Mandela, with whom Sevilla was in communication while he was imprisoned on Robben Island in South Africa as well as with The African National Congress (the ANC). Some of the most effective actions in support of the divestment of investments of U.S. companies doing business in South Africa took place between the years of 1976 and 1985, as Sevilla travelled throughout the American Continant and Europe gathering support for the overthrow of the South African Apartheid Government, which also led to his arrest at U.C. Berkeley on several occasions in the successful effort to force the University of California to divest all of their investments in companies doing business in South Africa, which also became the driving force for divestment worldwide in all companies doing business in the country of Apartheid South Africa. For example, in April, 1986, 61 students were arrested after building a shantytown in front of the chancellor’s office at UC Berkeley, Ramon Sevilla Chair CUAA.[13]

      As a result of these organized “divestment campaigns”, the boards of trustees of several prominent universities voted to divest completely from South Africa and companies with major South African interests.

      The first of these was Hampshire College in 1977.

      Harvard University only undertook a partial “divestment” from South Africa and only after significant resistance.[14] Adam Soften and Aln Wirzbicki give this description:

      Throughout the ‘80s, Harvard professors for the most part avoided involvement with South Africa in protest of apartheid, and then president Derek C. Bok was a vocal supporter of work by the U.S. to prompt reform in South Africa. But the University was slow to pull its own investments out of companies doing business in South Africa, insisting that through its proxy votes, it could more effectively fight apartheid than by purging stocks from its portfolio. But after a decade of protests, Harvard did adopt a policy of selective divestment, and by the end of the ‘80s was almost completely out of South Africa.[14]

      University of California, in contrast to the limited action undertaken by Harvard, authorized the withdrawal of three billion dollars worth of investments from the apartheid state. Nelson Mandela stated his belief that the University of California’s massive divestment was particularly significant in abolishing white-minority rule in South Africa.[15]

      Overall, according to Knight’s analysis,[4] the numbers year over year for educational institutions fully or partially divesting from South Africa were:
      1984 1987 1988
      Number of institutions divesting 53 128 155″

      Hope that helps. (sorry that I can’t get the yrs and numbers to line up properly, but I think you get the idea)

    • Rooster
      Rooster on May 29, 2014, 7:57 pm

      “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win.”

      ― Mahatma Gandhi

  4. JustJessetr
    JustJessetr on May 29, 2014, 8:51 pm

    Well, pro-Israel can’t win ’em all. Just please spare us the tired lie that Hampshire voted in favor of Israeli divestment to support your BDS arguments.

  5. Pixel
    Pixel on May 30, 2014, 1:15 am

    To send them a little love:: [email protected]

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