Student Court Invalidates ASUCD Vote on Divestment from Israel

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Three weeks after ASUCD sent shock waves throughout the community with an 8-2-2 vote to recommend that the University of California system divest from companies that do business with Israel, a student court has invalidated the vote.

According to the Sacramento Bee, “The Court of the Associated Students of UC Davis found that the ASUCD Senate resolution was political in nature and did not fall within the purview of the student government, which is to deal with issues affecting student welfare. The court responded to a student appeal of the divestment resolution.”

The court’s action rescinds the resolution, which was itself advisory in nature.

The text of Resolution #9 called for the UC Board of Regents to divest from “corporations that aid in the Israeli occupation of Palestine and illegal settlements in Palestinian territories, violating both international humanitarian law and international human rights.”

UC Davis had joined UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC San Diego and UC Riverside as UC schools to pass Israeli Divestment resolutions through their student governments.

Chancellor Linda Katehi immediately issued a statement. She wrote, “Last evening the ASUCD Senate passed a resolution urging the UC Board of Regents to divest from four corporations that, according to the resolution, ‘aid in the Israeli occupation of Palestine.’”

She stressed, “This, however, does not reflect the position of UC Davis or the University of California system. The investment policy for the University of California system, including UC Davis, is set by the UC Board of Regents. The Board and Office of the President issued a statement regarding student resolutions that urge the Board to divest from companies doing business with Israel. The statement reiterates the Board’s position that this type of call to action will not be entertained.”

The Jewish Federation of the Sacramento region immediately applauded the reversal.

Board President Barry Broad stated, “The reversal of this vote is in keeping with common sense and democratic values we hold dear. This vote was deemed political in nature and had nothing to do with the welfare of UC Davis’ students. The campaign supporting the effort was ugly and anti-Semitic.”

The UC Davis Court of Associated Students ruled 5-0, with one abstaining, in favor of a case brought forward which argued that the ASUCD did not adhere to its own constitution when it passed the divestment resolution.

The ASUCD constitution states that legislation brought before its body should “adopt or revise policies and regulations” that impact the operations of the ASUCD; deal with student welfare; and take actions to promote the “welfare and interests” of the ASUCD. The student court further stated that the divestment resolution was political.

The divestment vote took a heavy toll both on the community and the university. That flap was made worse by the discovery of a swastika at the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity. Later in the same week it was reported that a janitor at Hillel House found the words “grout out the Jews” etched into a bathroom wall.

In addition are the actions of ASUCD senator Azka Fayyaz, whose picture and comments posted on her personal Facebook page have generated controversy.

She posted, “Hamas & Shariah law have taken over UC Davis. Brb crying over the resilience.”

As a Cal Aggie editorial notes, “Fayyaz’s post was met with harsh criticism. As a result of of public backlash, Fayyaz uploaded the same photo again on Jan. 29  with a different caption stating, “If a movement is not controversial, if no one is mad, it’s not strong enough & it’s not worth the fight. Israel will fall Insha’Allah : ) #UCDDivest.” She has since disabled her Facebook account.”

Ms. Fayyaz did little to diffuse the controversy, publishing an extensive public statement in the Aggie, where she wrote, “Although I made a comment on the picture stating that the caption was satirical, the anti-divestment community conveniently left out the comment from the rest of the picture and took the caption out of context. In doing so, they shared my picture on various Islamophobic, racist and anti-Palestinian blogs and articles.”

She added, “I received hateful e-mails and violent messages and was labeled as an anti-Semite, a spokesperson for Hamas and a Jew-hater. All of these judgements are grotesquely disgusting and factually incorrect.”

Where does this go from here?

The Bee quotes Maxwell Kappes, vice president of the ASUCD Senate, who stated thatthe student court has five days to post its decision and that decision won’t be official until it is posted. But he said the court’s decision that the divestment resolution was unconstitutional essentially rescinds the resolution and no action by the student senate is required.”

However, one student told us that this was merely a procedural vote by the ASUCD Court – it was not substantive, which means that the vote, symbolic in the first place, remains intact. The vote by ASUCD Senate remains pro-divestment.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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48 Comments

  1. PhilColeman

    Here we have a divisive issue before us, prompted by one of the disputants. The prompt is inflammatory language, deliberately intended to provoke, and openly admitted as being a tool to gain further public attention.

    That attempt and the means used was successful beyond any expectation.

    Then an advisory legislative body on campus passes a resolution of support that has no authority, it’s advisory. Something like pretending to do something. Up goes the controversy meter.

    Then another pretend advisory body, a judicial one, strikes down the resolution on “legal” grounds when there is no actual law, just a pretend law.

    At first, I wondered if this was grown-up kids “playing house”  on a rainy Saturday afternoon. But now I’m feeling this is actually useful and educational for all the participants. It means nothing substantively, but it really is a good “pretend” exercise in what awaits everybody in the real world when they leave that idyllic campus. And, it sure beats another boring violent protest, which is really expensive and folks risk going to jail and becoming pretend martyrs.

    Campus leaders should note that this appears to be a precedent exercise involving pretend legislative and judicial student bodies, and the REAL executive campus leaders are going to be required to be more responsive to a zillion advisory rulings. As a social phenomenon, this promises to be interesting viewing.

    1. Napoleon Pig IV

      Very astute observations.

      Perhaps as the pretending proceeds the participants can refine their skills in using words to mean things they only pretend to mean and to use education to confound and mislead the less attentive among them.

      War is peace. Ignorance is strength. Delusion is reality. The list goes on. Oink!

    2. Anon

      Phil, I got quite a chuckle out of your observations that the student bodies are “pretend”, so that anything they approve is “pretend”.  But as you so wisely observe, this is an educational exercise, in which the students may actually learn something.  I think it is the very reason to make sure there is student gov’t, so that students get a taste of how democracy actually works, BEFORE they get out in the real world.  If Fayyez thinks she was treated harshly within UCD, she has no idea how much harsher it could have been in the real world outside of UCD.

      1. David Greenwald

        “If Fayyez thinks she was treated harshly within UCD, she has no idea how much harsher it could have been in the real world outside of UCD.”

        Again, I don’t think that’s a good thing. I believe it was you perhaps a month ago who was lamenting the fact that schools were no longer bastions for free expression.

          1. David Greenwald

            Obviously we disagree on this point. I would argue that consequence for one’s speech is what makes colleges not the bastion for free speech, the fact that one side may be underrepresented makes it all the more important that speech is carved out in a way that everyone feels safe to express their viewpoints.

    1. Anon

      I disagree.  It sends a message that the ASUCD should not be passing advisory votes on controversial political issues outside ASUCD’s purview, but should be passing resolutions that pertain to student life on campus.  For instance, it would be within the purview of the ASUCD to pass a resolution stating how students want to be treated by the university while protesting.  Now there is something students could legitimately get their teeth into!  Or how about a resolution outlining how students would like to be able to have access to UCD administrators in resolving issues?  You catch my drift…

    2. LadyNewkBahm

      I don’t think it is fair to let those jackasses get their say, then silence the rebuttal from the court. but I think one of the most important points is ASUCD went outside their basic mission – to promote the general welfare of students. not some students at the expense of others.

  2. Anon

    “”According to the Sacramento Bee, “The Court of the Associated Students of UC Davis found that the ASUCD Senate resolution was political in nature and did not fall within the purview of the student government, which is to deal with issues affecting student welfare. The court responded to a student appeal of the divestment resolution.”  The court’s action rescinds the resolution, which was itself advisory in nature.

    Good for the ASUCD Court (whether “pretend” court or not!).  The ASUCD Court got it exactly right.  And this entire ugly BDS episode is a good object lesson for all, one that our own City Council should take to heart.  In the past, there have been “advisory resolutions” passed by the City Council that really had nothing to do with local politics.  A lot of City Council time was wasted on these meaningless resolutions, which was a crying shame, as there were certainly more pressing local matters that needed to be addressed.  Nor did the City Council necessarily know if the approved advisory resolution represented the majority view of Davis citizens, rather than just that of a vocal minority.

    What is interesting to me is that the ASUCD students got a good dose of reality and how democracy really works when they made the decision to approve BDS.  I hope these students take away some invaluable lessons: 1) Any time one says or does something controversial, one had better be prepared to take the consequences of one’s actions – in other words it is always wise to choose one’s words carefully despite this nation’s freedom to mouth off.  With freedom comes responsibility, because what you say or do may have a ripple effect on others.; 2) One needs to think through and determine whether what one is doing within a governmental body is really within its purview.; 3) Political issues are often far more complex than what one reads in the newspaper or on the internet.; 4) Sometimes discretion is the better part of valor.; 5) Dialogue is often far more productive in gaining understanding of an issue than the blame game.; 6) There is more than one way to skin a cat (address issues).  Perhaps direct confrontation is not the wisest course of action if one wants to achieve anything truly meaningful.  Just some food for thought…

    1. David Greenwald

      It’s a bit disappointing that these are the take away lessons. First, there is a consistent conflation between the vote and the Senator’s comments and those should be dealt with separately. Secondly, I personally believe that this is the wrong approach. Rather than shut down debate and discussion which it appears we are doing, we need to have an open dialogue, discussion. Hatred should not be silenced, but confronted with love, compassion and truth.

      1. Anon

        Passing the ASUCD resolution and its aftermath was having an open dialogue/discussion?  Heckling speakers to shout them down is having an open dialogue/discussion?  Bullying ASUCD senators into voting a particular way is having open dialogue/discussion?  I would argue that having an open forum to discuss the issues to create better understanding on both sides might have been far more productive.  I also think you have missed a major point – the BDS issue was outside the purview of the ASUCD senate to weigh in on.

        Secondly, the ASUCD’s Court decision does not shut down debate on the BDS issue.  Proponents of BDS are free to further discuss the issue and express their viewpoints.  It just forces them to do it in the correct forum.

        Thirdly, I heartily disagree that the vote should not go hand-in-hand with Fayyez’s statements.  The second was a direct result of the first.  When one speaks, one cannot conveniently separate themselves from the repercussions of that speech.

      1. Alan Miller

        “Proponents of BDS are free to further discuss the issue and express their viewpoints.  It just forces them to do it in the correct forum.”

        And again agree with A-Non.  Must be an alternate universe today.

    2. Jeff Boone

      I think freedom of speech deserves the most passionate defense, but for the individual.  Entities and organizations need to stay true to their mission and not weave outside of their lane.  When they do they need to be slapped back to their senses.  This appears to be what has happened with ASUCD.  Let’s hope the organization learned from this.  After all, it is an education that the members are supposed to be pursuing as their first priority.

      1. Tia Will

        it is an education that the members are supposed to be pursuing as their first priority.”

        Agreed. And I believe that forming opinions, learning how to express them, learning how to forge alliances, build coalitions, and use these powers and groups constructively ( which did not occur here, but learning from a negative is still learning) are all a part of that education.

      2. Jim Frame

        I think freedom of speech deserves the most passionate defense, but for the individual.

        Corporations are people, too!  (Or so saith our right-wing Supreme Court.)

  3. LadyNewkBahm

    “Hatred should not be silenced, but confronted with love, compassion and truth.”

    would that be the same love, compassion and truth you regularly direct at your conservative opponents? because if it is, then shes in worse trouble than I thought. tehehe.

  4. LadyNewkBahm

    She added, “I received hateful e-mails and violent messages and was labeled as an anti-Semite, a spokesperson for Hamas and a Jew-hater. All of these judgements are grotesquely disgusting and factually incorrect.”

    well at least she was willing to correct the record because We were all beginning to wonder. Not that we actually believe this crap mind you since that Genie has long since been released from the bottle, but at least distancing herself from her comments was the smart thing and at this point the only option left.

    1. Tia Will

      I don’t believe that Ms. Fayyaz is distancing herself from her comments so much as pointing out that she never said things that she was accused of. In comments on this blog she was accused of “racism”, anti-Semitism, hating Jews, and yet when I asked repeatedly for anyone to post the quotes indicating that she had made any comments supporting these claims there was silence. It is so easy to distort actual words into something that has never been said and then launch an attack of the message of the false accusation.

      I think that there should be debate over this issue and I see a university campus as an appropriate place for such debate. I do not believe that either side should be engaging in either threatened or real censorship as in some demands that she be removed from her position for simply expressing her position in ways that were less than diplomatic and disliked by those commenters.

      1. Anon

        When you asked for some of us to point to comments Fayyez made that indicated she was racist, there was not silence as you claim.  There were direct quotes.  You may disagree that those quotes were racist, that’s fine.  But some of us don’t agree with your assessment.  But we were far from silent!

        Secondly, I hoped that Fayyez would be removed from her position as ASUCD rep because she did not live up to her obligation to abide by UCD’s Principles of Community.  If an ASUCD senator had said “The KKK rules UCD; civil rights will be repealed God willing”, would your position be that the individual in question was merely expressing their opinion?

        1. Tia Will

          Anon

          The KKK rules UCD; civil rights will be repealed God willing”, would your position be that the individual in question was merely expressing their opinion?”

          Yes, as I have responded many times. If you do not believe this, you can go back and check my posts on the rights of the Westboro Baptist Church to put forth their opinion, no matter how odious or hateful I find it to be. Do you honestly think that I would treat the speech of the KKK any differently than I would treat that of the Westboro Baptist Church ? I don’t have to agree with it to defend their right to say it.

          1. David Greenwald

            To borrow from the discussion I started in today’s article, Nat Hentoff wrote extensively about the ACLU’s defense of the KKK march in Skokie, Illinois in the late 1970s. I really do believe that we should think about what free speech means.

  5. hpierce

    Ok… again David lists one student’s name 4 times in the article.  So much for wanting the “spanking machine” to stop.

    There were 8 votes for the [ill-conceived] resolution.  Was only 1 “rascist”, “anti-semitic”, silly?

    1. Alan Miller

      I believe her comments on her Facebook page are what brought the wrath to the one name David listed.

      But yeah, go ahead, list all the names and how they voted; I’m sure it’s public record.

  6. LadyNewkBahm

    hehe you left out support for Hamas and wanting israel to fall which she said in her comments.

    and supporting Hamas by extension is arguably supporting anti-semitism:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5UT6grrx8do#t=248

    Hamas broadcasts antisemitic propaganda film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Eu6_P8rNpk

    more antisemitism from Hamas. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t67fU3wzsVQ

    in other words, you have Hamas leaders and spokesmen attacking Jews, and an anti Jew cartoon.

  7. Dave Hart

    Where else but on a University campus that is charged with training our next generation of bureaucrats would we get a statement like this:

    The ASUCD constitution states that legislation brought before its body should “adopt or revise policies and regulations” that impact the operations of the ASUCD; deal with student welfare; and take actions to promote the “welfare and interests” of the ASUCD. The student court further stated that the divestment resolution was political.

    Adopt or revise policies is what politics is.  Yes, it is political and that is the point of student government.  What is not discussed in this article is how the UC Davis Court of Associated Students is composed.  Is it appointed or elected?  What is it’s relationship to the UC administration?  Who are these five individuals?

    In the bigger scheme of things this doesn’t make any difference because the political discussion of Israel’s policies will continue to come under increasing scrutiny because of the inherent injustice. It’s all good.

    1. Anon

      Whoa, back the truck up!  The ASUCD constitution says “should adopt or revise policies and regulations THAT IMPACT THE OPERATIONS OF THE ASUCD”.  That does not give ASUCD carte blanche to pass resolutions on foreign policy.  It works much the same way in the federal gov’t.  For instance, the judiciary can interpret law, but cannot make law.  The President can make foreign policy, but only Congress can declare war, etc.  The ASUCD constitution clearly states it is supposed to be concerned with the welfare of students, period.

      1. Dave Hart

        I have not read the ASUCD mission statement or delved into the recesses of all its myriad operations.  Divestment issues could very well impact on current or future purchasing or expenditure decisions.  Moreover, if there is some general statement in their mission to do what is in the “best interests” of students, a non-binding resolution like the one that was passed can serve as a guide.  If there is no opportunity for this to have a direct impact on day-to-day operations, then it has no impact.  If it were to have a direct impact, then the resolution is in place to do that.  It’s only a big deal for those who have an agenda of supporting Israeli policies at any cost. Thank you for the opportunity to think deeper.

      2. Tia Will

        Anon

        The ASUCD constitution clearly states it is supposed to be concerned with the welfare of students, period.”

        Some of us happen to believe that the welfare of students is impacted by the policies of how UC funds are spent and invested. Many of us felt, during the Viet Nam war that it was entirely reasonable to protest how our fees as well as our taxes were being invested and utilized. I certainly felt that it affected my welfare both directly in terms of the potential boyfriend that I could not stay with because of his uncontrollable temper and volatility from what we now recognize as PTSD and indirectly in terms of my conscience at the harm we were choosing to inflict on innocent civilians.

        I completely disagree with you and anyone who says that it is not the role of students or government officials to speak out on moral issues, regardless of the level of government at which they serve. It is my opinion that everyone has the right to speak out against what they perceive as injustice, regardless of their role in society.

        1. Alan Miller

          “It is my opinion that everyone has the right to speak out against what they perceive as injustice, regardless of their role in society.”

          I agree, but not AS a representative of that role in society, only as an individual.  They can use their position to bolster their ability to get the word out, but they should not state themselves as representing their position to do so.

        2. hpierce

          Alan makes a very good point… if a US Senator opines that they are personally (and adamantly) opposed to abortion, (as is their free speech right), but uses the term “John Doe”, US Senator in their ‘letter to the editor’ appropriate?

          I’m thinking, NOT.  I do not know if the student used her ‘title’ or not.  Then you can get into the area of “implied’.  I do not choose to “go there”.

  8. Tia Will

    and supporting Hamas by extension is arguably supporting anti-semitism”

    Using this logic, would you also then feel that supporting the existence of a Jewish state is arguably anti – Islamic. Does this not also make this a religious or racist position on the part of the Jews since that is the logic you are using to call her comments “racist “?

    1. hpierce

      With due respect, Tia, Hamas is not equal to Islam.  Islam is not racial, it is a belief system, and is not inherently anti-Jew.  Arguably, “infidel” applies more to those who deny God exists [Hebrew texts, and Christian refer to those as ‘gentiles’ and/or ‘non-believers’].  I too, disagree with Hamas = “anti-semitic”.  There are nuances.  Mostly, political, not religious nor racial.

      Check your logic.

    2. Miwok

      I guess you would have to decide who put the Jews there,  and most of recent History starts after the 1940’s? Which time during History do you stop the wheel and say “You can have the territory”?

      The people who are aggrieved are the displaced ones from that decision by the World.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israel

      Tia, supporting the existence of a Jewish state is arguably anti – Islamic.

      Is that a distinction without a difference? By being  FOR one side, you want the other eliminated, or you are FOR one side and try to make them live together? Like some of the rants about  Political Parties on every show and blog, I think it will never resolve.

  9. Tia Will

    hpierce

    I think I must not have expressed myself clearly as that was exactly my point about the logic being used by Anon to claim that the initial comments made by the student were “racist”. Looks like I fumbled my point.

     

  10. Tia Will

    Alan

    I agree, but not AS a representative of that role in society, only as an individual.  They can use their position to bolster their ability to get the word out, but they should not state themselves as representing their position to do so.”

    I see your point. However, I believe that the offensive comments were made upon her personal Facebook page not on any official document or resolution. I see this as exactly the distinction that you are making. I don’t buy it that because some students have used their Facebook page in order to win election that this means that she was representing this as a public rather than a private statement.

  11. Frankly

    And this just in for all you rational-thinking Palestinian supporters and Israel haters:

     A federal jury in New York on Monday found the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization liable for supporting six terrorist attacks in Israel more than a decade ago and ordered the groups to pay $218.5 million to the American victims’ families.

    Monday’s verdict in Manhattan federal court follows a lengthy legal battle stemming from a lawsuit filed in 2004 under the U.S. Antiterrorism Act. The 1992 law, which allows U.S. victims of international terrorism to seek remedy in federal court, automatically triples the jury damages awarded to more than $655 million because the claims involved an act of terrorism.

    The verdict comes amid mounting problems for the Palestinian Authority, the government of Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. U.S. officials have warned that the Authority is already edging close to an economic crisis since a January decision by Israel to freeze transfers of at least $200 million in tax revenue it collects on behalf of the Authority.

     

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