The University of Indianapolis (UINDY) Student Senate passed a divestment resolution on April 2 with 49 votes for, 12 against, and 11 abstentions.
The resolution demanded that the university divest from companies profiting from human rights violations in Palestine, which include but is not limited to, Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, G4S, Lockheed Martin, Elbit Systems and Boeing.
Last November, Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of Indianapolis released a position statement in regards to its divestment campaign and adopted three demands from the 2005 Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). They officially launched the campaign last December.
“When we announced the campaign initially we did not encounter any opposition from on campus. However, an outside organization, Jewish Community Relations Council Indiana(JCRC), heard of our campaign and quickly denounced it publicly. They were also in communication with senior administration and the university president, and convinced them to allow the JCRC into the senate [meeting] to testify against the resolution,” SJP at University of Indianapolis spokesperson Ahmed Mitiche said.
Student organizations that endorsed the resolution were able to bring the resolution up for vote in the Student Senate. The organizations that endorsed the resolution are: Students for Justice in Palestine, Anthropology and Archaeology Student Organization (ARCHAIC), Black Student Association (BSA), JANUS Club (International Relations, History and Political Science Student Organization), Kinesiology Club, Muslim Student Union, Pre-Physical Therapy Student Organization (PPTSO), UIndy Honors Student Association and UIndy PRIDE.
According to Mitiche, the first half of the Senate meeting was open to the public. JCRC members attended as well as BDS supporters. JCRC members provided their testimonies against the resolution. An attorney from Jewish Voice for Peace offered his response to these testimonies and was heckled by JCRC members and received a threat in addition to being called a traitor and not “a real Jew,” according to Mitiche. After the testimonies were given, guests were asked to leave and the floor was open for senators to comment for approximately an hour.
“The vote was done via private ballot. The results were: 39 votes for, 20 abstentions, and 3 votes against. To pass the resolution we needed a supermajority (41 votes for) and so we were two votes short. The abstaining votes did not count towards the majority (as is usually done when using Robert’s Rules),” said Mitiche.
A letter was issued by JCRC applauding the Student Senate at the University of Indianapolis “for choosing dialogue over divestment” on Feb 28.
However, after the vote was completed, the students expressed their desire to have another vote at the next Senate meeting.
“Campus administration organized a series of five campus conversations related to Palestine/Israel. Although only one of the events occurred in time for the next vote, senators were able to go and do their own research, to reach out to us (or opponents of the resolution), to speak more in depth with their membership. We also met with the leadership of various RSOs (registered student organizations) to further our case for supporting BDS,” said Mitiche.
Earlier this month, the divestment resolution was finally officially passed by the Student Senate. When asked about challenges faced, Mitiche told PiA that there was a lack of awareness among students in regards to Palestine and Israel and the difficulties that Palestinians face as well as BDS in general. Mitiche believed that this had a positive outcome since it allowed them to engage in meaningful dialogue.
“Other challenges came from outside groups like the JCRC, who continuously denounced our campaign, called us divisive and against dialogue, and used red herring arguments regarding BDS as leading to anti-semitism,” he said. “They also claimed that we had a “secret vote”, despite the fact that student government and all Student Senators were made aware, and that we publicized the vote for weeks before it occurred. Other anonymous groups online were more malicious in their attacks, calling us anti-semitic and trying to link us to terrorist organizations.”
A formal request will be issued to the Financial Committee of the Board of Trustees to divest from the six corporations that were outlined in the resolution, should they be invested in them currently. A formal letter will also be submitted to University of Indianapolis Dining Services which will request it to de-shelve Sabra Hummus from all of its dining facilities.