April 16, 2014

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Addressing Our Imperfections

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To the Editor:

Re: “Student Assembly Tables Resolution to Divest from Pro-Israeli Companies,“ News, April 11.

Disclaimer: The following letter reflects our personal opinions, not those of the entire Student Assembly.

At last Thursday’s meeting, the Student Assembly voted to table Resolution 72 indefinitely. Ultimately, we did not feel that the setting of an S.A. meeting was the appropriate forum for this type of legislation.

Our job, as the leadership of the S.A., is to uphold our processes and the principles upon which the Student Assembly was founded. Many people forget that the Assembly system itself came out of strife and struggle. It was born in the wake of the Willard Straight Hall takeover because Black students felt that there was no forum for them to have a say in the governance of the University. That is the history that we pushed aside on Thursday.

We have an obligation to divorce ourselves from the content of any resolution or issue and allow our processes to prevail. These processes dictate that we provide the opportunity for students to have their concerns heard and addressed. This does not mean that our processes are perfect, but at the very least they do protect the rights of every undergraduate student to speak, be heard and to listen. It does not matter if we are talking about trash cans on North Campus or fossil fuel divestment. If students say it is an issue, we have a duty to hear it.

Tabling a resolution indefinitely means that the resolution cannot be brought forward again unless a majority of the members vote to do so. As “New Business,” R. 72 was only open for comments and questions, not debate or voting. We acknowledge that the sponsors of R. 72 should have had the opportunity to speak before it was tabled. We also stand firm in our belief that bringing this resolution to a vote would not have benefitted our members or the community as a whole. When we do bring legislation to a vote, we are charged with the task of voting in a way that represents the best interests of all students, something that would have been impossible to achieve in this instance, without creating an overly divisive atmosphere on campus.

Alternatively, the S.A. could have voted to bring this discussion to a different venue after hearing from the sponsors. This was not done. The S.A. members did, however, follow all parliamentary procedure during that meeting, and though it may have seemed rushed, all of the correct procedures were followed for bringing the resolution to the Assembly. It is unfortunate that in this case our procedure was used to not allow discussion. In that sense, we did cast aside the principles of fairness and democracy.

We applaud the number of students who attended the meeting and took an interest in the matter, and welcome all students to utilize the S.A. as a venue for sharing all perspectives. In fact, we were elected to represent you and all of your opinions, and we hope that we can find a forum for all students to talk about R. 72 that feels safe, open and honest. We will not always agree and discussion may be uncomfortable, but we can certainly start somewhere.

Ulysses Smith ’14

President of the Student Assembly

Sarah Balik ’15

Executive Vice President of the Student Assembly