ASUC Senate Fails to Reach Consensus on Divestment Bill

Photo: ASUC Senator Christina Oatfield attended Wednesday's meeting, where after more than two hours of closed session, senators failed to reach an agreement regarding the divestment bill.
Skyler Reid/Staff
ASUC Senator Christina Oatfield attended Wednesday's meeting, where after more than two hours of closed session, senators failed to reach an agreement regarding the divestment bill.

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Following more than two hours of deliberation in closed session, the ASUC Senate failed Wednesday night to come to a consensus on whether to override President Will Smelko's March 24 veto of a bill targeting alleged Israeli war crimes.

After moving into a closed session for discussion at 8:40 p.m., senators discussed the bill, which urges the University of California to divest from companies that supplied Israel with materials used in alleged war crimes. The two-hour debate focused on the motion to override Smelko's veto and the potential to craft a new bill in time to be voted on next week.

The senators could not come to a consensus after the closed session and the bill was not added to the agenda for next week's senate meeting.

Debating the issue in closed session may be in violation of the ASUC Constitution, Attorney General Kevin Gibson said before the meeting.

The constitution states that the senate may vote, by a two-thirds majority, to hold a meeting in closed session for issues involving litigation, the acquisition or disposition of property, issues concerning ASUC employees, judgment cases for the Judicial Council, labor-related negotiations between the ASUC and the University and "matters involving investments, when discussion in open session could have a negative impact on the Association's financial situation."

Independent Senator Jonathan Gaurano said in an e-mail that discussing the issue in closed session did not violate the constitution because the discussion of the bill deals with the disposition of property.

According to SQUELCH! party Senator Emily Carlton-a co-sponsor of the original bill-the new legislation included all aspects of the original bill in addition to new clauses that would extend the student government's condemnation to alleged war crimes in other countries. Such a move could create a compromise between the supporters and opponents of the original bill, she said.

"When we e-mailed the bill, the opposing side went into a caucus and decided they would not support a compromise or putting it on the agenda so it could be considered next week," Carlton said.

Student Action Senator and President-elect Noah Stern said at the meeting he opposed the new bill because it violated procedural rules that state any bills being introduced to the senate must be submitted by Tuesday.

The meeting continued with multiple recesses and another hour-long discussion of the new bill, but several senators still had reservations.

Student Action Senator Nhu Nhu Nguyen said at the meeting she supports the half of the bill that calls for divestment from the companies supporting war crimes, but that she could not support only applying such a standard to specific countries.

"I agree with all the things that call for divestment, but the specificity is something I cannot agree with," she said at the meeting.

Carlton said discussion of the bill will resume at next week's senate meeting, when the senators will again vote on whether to override the veto.

"We will have a public forum again, probably in Pauley," she said. "We have one more chance and then that will be the end of this bill, but not the issue."

But Emiliano Huet-Vaughn-a co-author of the original bill-said at the meeting he felt there was no reason to proceed with the new bill because it was unlikely to gain enough support among senators.

"They won't vote to support it," he said at the meeting. "They are afraid or don't want to criticize Israel's human rights abuses."

In addition to lengthy discussion about the controversial bill, Judicial Council Chair Kiira Johal read the names of recently elected officials into the senate meeting minutes, with the exception of Stern and Student Action Senator-elect Michael Bloch due to ongoing investigations into possible elections violations.


Contact Allie Bidwell at [email protected]

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