ASUC President Smelko Vetoes Divestment Bill

Text of President Smelko's Veto »

Click here to view the text of ASUC President Will Smelko's veto of the senate's Israel divestment bill.

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Correction Appended

ASUC President Will Smelko vetoed a bill Wednesday that called for the University of California to divest from companies that have provided war supplies to Israel.

The bill states that United Technologies and General Electric are supplying Israel with the technology necessary to attack civilian populations in Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. While the bill passed the ASUC Senate last week by a 16-4 vote that followed four hours of discussion and about 80 speakers, Smelko said in a veto statement that the bill did not adequately outline an effective divestment strategy or address possible effects on UC and ASUC finances and "the perception of the bill as a symbolic attack on a specific community of our fellow students."

"While the ASUC as a body has stated convincingly that it does not want ASUC and UC dollars going to fund weapons, war crimes, or human rights violations, this veto has to do with the mechanism by which the ASUC achieves its mission of building peace and goodwill in a way that avoids the shortcomings of the bill (such as a) ... selective, one-sided focus on a specific country that lacks important historical context and understanding," Smelko said in the statement.

He said in the statement there were significant differences between the bill and a similar resolution approved by the senate in the 1980s that called for the university to divest from apartheid-era South Africa.

"The analogy itself is highly contested, (and) the divestment strategies employed against the apartheid government were not introduced and agreed upon after mere hours of discussion, but involved lengthy and serious deliberation and analysis."

In a statement to the senate, Smelko said that his decision to veto the bill had come after lengthy consideration.

"This decision was by no means easy, and in fact one of the more difficult decisions I've had to make," he said in the statement. "No matter what I do, large groups of people are going to be very mad and upset, and I have to balance that with the fiduciary duties and responsibilities I swore to when I took office last May, no matter how big the pressure may be."

Correction: Thursday, March 25, 2010
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that a bill passed by the ASUC Senate urges the University of California to divest from General Electric and Hewlett-Packard. In fact, the bill urges the university to divest from General Electric and United Technologies.

The Daily Californian regrets the error.

Zach E.J. Williams is the university news editor. Contact him at [email protected]

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