University of Michigan student government rejects divestment resolution

The University of Michigan’s Central Student Government (CSG) voted down a divestment resolution that was forwarded by the Palestinian advocacy group, Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE). The resolution received 34 votes against, 13 in favor, and 3 abstentions at an assembly on Nov. 15.

SAFE’s divestment campaign for the 2016-2017 school year urged the university “to divest from companies that profit from the systematic violation of Palestinian human rights.” However, the resolution that CSG voted against did not call for immediate divestment from any company.

Instead, the resolution called on CSG to request that the University of Michigan Regents form a committee “to investigate the ethical and moral implications of our investments in the corporations Boeing, G4S, Hewlett-Packard, and United Technologies, and all other companies that directly profit from human rights violations according to international law, against the Palestinian people.”

During the assembly, an amendment was added that limited the scope of the resolution to only Boeing, G4S, Hewlett-Packard, and United Technologies rather than all companies that profit from human rights abuses.

Before CSG representatives voted, supporters and opponents of the resolution had a chance to make their case and engage in a debate. The assembly lasted over five hours and ended well after midnight. The full proceedings can be viewed here and here.

The resolution faced opposition before the assembly from students including members of the group Michigan Hillel. A petition circulated by Hillel charged the resolution with creating divisions on campus during an already polarized time.

“As students who support the state of Israel, we want CSG to know that this resolution does not represent us, nor the values of our Michigan community,” the petition reads. “It demonizes Israel while marginalizing the pro-Israel community on campus. This resolution assigns absolute blame to only one side of a complicated conflict. Both the Palestinian and Israeli narratives have value – only one is presented in this resolution.”

According to a statement by Hillel, the petition garnered 5,805 signatures from students, alumni, and community members.

The resolution also received considerable support from University of Michigan students. About thirty student organizations on campus signed on the resolution including the Black Student, Students for a Democratic Society and the East Quad Multicultural Council.

After the vote, Hillel released a statement expressing gratitude for CSG’s decision, while calling for further action on campus.

“We have much work to do on campus to move forward. As many of you heard last night, there is a strong desire from students to invest in meaningful coexistence and peace-building projects, to listen to one another’s stories in dialogue, and to channel the passion and energy so many have around this conflict into productive change. We look forward to working with Central Student Government, university administration, and other partners as our campus moves forward from this resolution towards more productive and unifying conversations and actions,” the statement reads.

SAFE expressed their disappointment with CSG and their commitment to keep fighting for justice in a Facebook post the day after the resolution was voted down.

“CSG has once again failed the student body. CSG has made it known that it does not represent the widespread calls for basic human decency and justice from the student body. We will always be here fighting for justice. And we will be back,” the post reads.

SAFE put forward divestment resolutions in 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 academic years that were also voted down.

Yasmeen Abdellatif

Yasmeen Abdellatif is a Palestinian-American student at Saint Xavier University in Chicago. She is an English major and minors in Writing, Middle Eastern Studies, and Spanish.

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