May 6, 2006

S.A. Passes Resolution 29

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The Student Assembly passed the highly contentious Resolution 29 yesterday by a vote of 14 to 1 with 6 abstaining. The resolution, which urges state and federal representatives to pressure “Iran [and] any other state sponsor of terror to stop their support of international terror organizations [and] the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction” was voted on in the Straight’s Memorial room in front of around 50 advocates and protesters.

The resolution, which was initially presented at last week’s meeting, was postponed due to indecision and debate. After that meeting, the resolution underwent many modifications to make it more appealing to a greater majority of the student body.

S.A. President Tim Lim ’06 explained, “After consultation with members of the S.A. and the community we feel that this resolution [has] more in common with the student body. In the past week I met with opposition and members of the S.A. and took in their considerations to create a product spanning different spectrums and different political backgrounds.”

In addition, Kwame Thomison ’07, S.A. incoming president, joined Lim, Sarah Boxer, ’07 S.A. vice president for public relations and Jamie Weinstein ’06 president of Cornell Israel Public Affairs Committee and Sun columnist, in presenting the resolution.

“I was always for the resolution,” Thomison said. “I felt that it was my position as incoming president to take a stand because I felt like lots of people were taking the [S.A.’s] charter and twisting it.”

Indeed, the debate centered around the question of the S.A.’s role with passing such a political resolution as opposed to the merits of the resolution itself. This was shown when Ali Merali ’06 asked for members of the audience to raise their hands if they felt that Iran should not possess nuclear weapons. The majority of hands subsequently went up. Merali then asked the audience to raise again if they were against any terrorist nation having nuclear arms. In response almost everyone raised their hands. With almost unanimous opposition to nuclear proliferation, the debate then shifted to focus on the appropriateness of the S.A. with presenting such a resolution.

While the debate snowballed over the week, student activism did as well. Supporters of the resolution were in attendance wearing white shirts that read “No Nukes for Iran Yes on 29” and held signs that read, “It’s our RESPONSIBILITY to pass 29.” Students against the resolution attended wearing red shirts and held signs saying, “Housing, dining, funding, NOT foreign policy.”

However, Lim and company argued that the resolution was well within the S.A. bounds and pointed to precedent that illustrated this. “We have debated this before, and passed resolutions with issues such as the Iraq war,” Lim said.

S.A. vice president Michelle Fernandes ’06 agreed, saying, “The S.A. has always passed political resolutions.”

Another concern of both S.A. members and the constituency was the singling out of Iranian students and potential discrimination.

“With this resolution [Iranian students] are feeling marginalized and alienated from the Cornell community,” said Mandana Arabi, grad and member of the Iranian Students Organization.

In addition, Cina Sasannesad ’09 and member of the ISO, agreed that the resolution was not the right approach to condemning nuclear proliferation to Iran.

“There are better solutions to the problem than vague plans such as ‘putting pressure’ on the government like the resolution calls for,” Sasannesad said.

However, the prevailing attitude of the S.A. was that the modified resolution was more inclusive and did not leave any room for bias or discrimination.

“The resolution has become less political and more humanitarian,” said Daniel Budish ’09 and S.A. member. “My concerns from last week have been appeased by the amendments and it’s the S.A.’s duty to speak out for humanitarian concerns.”

Boxer, one of the resolution’s original sponsors agreed that the modified resolution was more universal and accepting. “This new resolution explains that in no way is it alienating or discriminating against any culture or any society,” she said.

After nearly an hour and a half of debate, this time from both the S.A. representatives and community, the vote took place. The majority needed to pass the resolution was achieved, despite six abstentions.

The passing of the resolution marked the end of a busy year for Lim and the rest of the S.A. Executive Board. The S.A. will reconvene next year and will be headed by newly elected president Thomison.