Just before the vote was to take place by the student senate, the university’s Student Judicial Council, part of the student government, announced that it had ruled a resolution calling for divestment “unconstitutional” on the grounds that it was “discriminatory” and “one-sided.” The ruling allowed no recourse or debate and the entire vote was then scrapped.
As The Electronic Intifada reported, the university administration had insisted that discussions relating to the resolution be conducted in a secretive manner.
Tuesday’s meeting was live-streamed on YouTube — but the recording was made private immediately afterwards. Palestine solidarity activists say this was a deliberate attempt by the administration to prevent public review of what the activists called the “disgraceful proceedings.”
“The #UTDivest movement resolutely condemns the cruel parliamentarian absurdities that we were forced to endure last night,” student campaigners wrote in a Facebook post on Wednesday morning.
The administration had ruled that supporters of the resolution could only have ten minutes to present their arguments without the opposing group present in the room, and vice versa.
Following presentations given by both supporters and opponents of the divestment resolution, student senators were allowed approximately half an hour of debate.
Several of the senators made remarks insinuating that divestment supporters were anti-Semitic and that the bill could discriminate against Jewish students, parroting talking points by Israel advocacy groups.
Hillel, a nationwide network of campus centers for Jewish students which opposes boycott and sanctions efforts, brought in the Jewish Federation of Toledo to help crush support for the resolution. The group is affiliated with a national network called the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA).
In 2010, JFNA and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs launched the “Israel Action Network,” described as “a multimillion-dollar joint initiative to combat anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns” and to fight “the delegitimizing of the State of Israel.”
“Travesty of justice”
Derek Ide, co-founder of the Students for Justice in Palestine chapter at the University of Toledo (UT-SJP), told The Electronic Intifada on Wednesday morning that he was frustrated by the outcome of the hearing but students haven’t lost their determination to see this resolution become a reality.
“Our reaction was complete disbelief at the travesty of justice and the mockery of democracy that took place [Tuesday] night,” Ide said. “The talking points put forward by Hillel as well as some of the senators associated with them was manifestation of outside influence.”
Ide said that UT-SJP’s plan is to bring a divestment resolution back to the student senate immediately.
“It’s apparent that from the beginning, this process has been non-transparent and undemocratic. But we’re on the side not only of justice for the Palestinians and for people around the world, but also for open, democratic debate on UT’s campus which is a very important principle for us. We’re ready to move forward,” Ide said.
UT-SJP is planning to call a referendum through which the entire student body on campus will be allowed to vote on the divestment resolution.
Meanwhile, the undergraduate student government at Stanford University in California passed a divestment resolution in a landslide vote on Tuesday evening. A divestment resolution also passed at Northwestern University in Illinois early Thursday morning.