April 28, 2006

S.A. Debates Iran Stance

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After nearly two hours of debate yesterday in the Straight’s Art Gallery, the Student Assembly decided to table voting on Resolution 29: Resolution Condemning Iranian Nuclear Proliferation until their next meeting on Thursday, May 4.

The motion was proposed by Tim Lim ’06, president of the S.A., who was one of three students presenting the resolution. While Lim was confident that the resolution would pass, he was concerned that too many delegates would abstain from voting. The S.A. charter requires that at least 50 percent of the representatives’ vote, meaning that 12 of the 23 representatives needed to vote in order for the results to count.

“We were going to win, but I feared too many abstentions,” Lim said. “To approve the resolution, you need a simple majority, but I feared we wouldn’t have enough people voting.”

Despite the lack of a ruling, nearly 75 students crowded into the Art Gallery to voice their opinions and attempt to persuade their representatives. Though students or community members never got the chance to speak because the representatives debated the entire time, this didn’t stop them from influencing the meeting’s tone. Over one dozen signs and posters were created by both pro and against groups and students for the resolution. Signs were both bashing, “Resolution 29 is NOT for Cornell”, and supportive, “Ahmadinejad: “Iran is ready to transfer nuclear know-how to the Islamic countries due to their need.” One sign even offered a bit of comic relief in a room that desperately needed it by quoting the popular TV show Family Guy: “You can’t hug your children with nuclear arms”. In addition, one member of the audience was escorted out of the meeting by a Cornell Police Officer for unruly and disruptive behavior.

Resolution 29, which has provoked campus-wide petitions and discussions, is proposed by three students: Lim, Jamie Weinstein ’06, president of Cornell Israel Public Affairs Committee and Sun columnist, and Sarah Boxer ’07, vice president of publicity for the S.A. The Resolution shows support for the Iran Freedom Support Act that was passed April 25 by the House of Representatives and urges United States leaders to curb Iran’s quest to obtain and possibly distribute nuclear arms to terrorist organizations.

However, since its conception, the resolution has faced the most stringent opposition. Many believe that it is not the S.A.’s job to propose such political and controversial resolutions for they were not elected based on their political views.

S.A. Representative Ali Merali ’06 believes that a resolution may be a little premature and unrepresentative.

“I think that its great to have debate, but passing a resolution is not a debate,” Merali said. “On a controversial issue like this I think it’s very hard for the S.A. to represent the entire constituency.”

While the S.A. ultimately adjourned with the intention of holding forums and debates over the next week in order to better gauge the public opinion, proponents believe that the S.A. has the inherent right and duty to propose and pass this resolution.

“The S.A. is not overstepping our bounds by our charter or past precedent,” said Lim. “We have debated the Iraq war, Kosovo and other issues that may seem out of bounds of the S.A. charter, but, as an Ivy League institution, we should be able to debate this issue as well.”

Lim specifically referred to Bylaw 1.3.a.4 of the S.A. Charter which states that, “a Sense-of-the-Body Resolution, which may or may not be directed at a particular individual, organization or event, is an expression of the opinion of the S.A. regarding a matter of student concern.”

In addition to the controversy over the allowance of such a resolution from the bylaws, the Iran nuclear situation is one of great contention and has received numerous recent media coverage.

“There have been hundreds of students talking about this issue,” Boxer said. “This is a hot button case.”

Some opposition to the resolution also feared that it was exclusive and would alienate certain students – specifically Iranian or Arab current or potential students.

“There are [Iranian, Muslim and Arab] students on campus, and they identify with this resolution,” said S.A. representative Hannah Kern ’08. “If we pass this resolution, it can make these types of students feel unwelcome.”

In addition, Kern read a statement submitted by the Residential Student Congress. Regarding the issue of potential discrimination, the statement encouraged “members of the S.A. to explore whether Resolution 29 upholds Cornell’s statement on diversity and inclusiveness.”

Supporters refuted this claim, saying that the resolution was not targeting any group of people, but rather a country with a militant and potentially extremely dangerous president, Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. More importantly, the resolution was not advocating war or action, rather simply supporting the House’s ruling and continued protection of our country by preventing nuclear arms from spreading to a belligerent demagogue. In addition, supporters hope that the resolution will ignite and urge local and national officials to debate and make progress on this issue. If passed, the resolution will be sent to President Bush and other cabinet members as well as local representatives.

“If the S.A. passes the resolution, more local officials will be urged to act,” said Weinstein. “Iran is the leading sponsor of terrorism in the world, and this effects Cornell.”

Iranian and Arab students aren’t the only ones potentially targeted by the aftermath of Iran’s situation. Student groups such as CIPAC strongly support the resolution for they fear potential harm to Israel if Iran obtains nuclear capabilities.

“Iran and its interests pose a big threat to Israel and the US,” said Alyssa Goldschmidt ’08. Goldschmidt then pointed to a sign which held a quote from President Ahmadinejad saying, “As the Imam said, Israel must be wiped off the map.”

While the debate will continue to rage long after the school year dismisses, S.A. members hope that tabling the voting on the resolution will allow more time for the community to become informed and relay their views to their representatives.

“We are going to try and set up something for people to come out and voice their opinions,” said Masdak Asgary ’08, S.A. representative and Sun Columnist.

S.A. representatives will attempt to contact and get word out as soon as a forum or debate is scheduled. They will then reconvene for their weekly meeting next Thursday to vote on and settle the resolution.

“Whether the resolution passes or fails, I commend the writers for promoting debate and discussion across the campus,” said Asgary.

Archived article by Carl Menzel
Sun Staff Writer