Another One: University of Chicago’s College Council passes divestment resolution
After two weeks of campaigning at the University of Chicago, UofC Divest was able to garner enough votes from the College Council to pass its resolution.
Eight voted in favor, four voted against and three abstained after the student leaders debated the resolution.
The room was filled to the brim with students both for and against the divestment resolution. Shortly after UofC Divest launched its campaign on March 28th, an anti-divestment coalition, Coalition for Peace, was formed.
Coalition for Peace claims “the rhetoric of the divestment effort on campus will only lead to a furthering of anti-Semitism and hatred that alienates pro-Israel and Jewish students.”It was this very rhetoric that spurred some of the discussions, during the evening.
Proponents of divestment made it very clear that this resolution was not anti-Semitic. One council member insisted that a total of 5 paragraphs from the original resolution, which contained the phrase “BDS,” be deleted entirely. The amendment did not pass.
UofC Divest organizer Hoda Katebi said some council members were hesitant or unwilling to vote on the divestment resolution.
“One or two representatives tried to argue that it ‘wasn’t their job’ to deal with this issue. Which is basically silencing and ignoring Palestinian students and the horrible culture that has been perpetuated. The administration of course, has called all of the hate speech that has been happening against Palestinian students as “freedom of speech,” this fun little phrase that is always tossed around to hold up the status quo and protect the oppressors,” she said.Council member Cosmo Albrecht made it clear during the debate he disagreed with his colleagues who attempted to table the resolution. At one point he told fellow members of council, who did not feel comfortable voting on this issue they “shouldn’t have run.”
Now that the resolution has passed at the student government level, it is now the responsibility of the College Council to bring it up to the administration. The UofC Divest group plans to hold the administration accountable.
A few days after the vote, the university released a response, which reaffirmed its support for Israel.
“The University of Chicago will not divest from companies for doing business in Israel and opposes academic boycotts aimed at specific nations, including Israel. The University is restating its policy to address questions regarding its institutional position,” the statement said. “The University does not take social or political stances on issues outside its core mission. Using investments or other means to advance a social or political position held by some segment of the University community would only diminish the University’s distinctive contribution – providing a home and environment for faculty and students to engage freely and openly on the widest range of issues. The Kalven Report outlines this approach and the values behind it, concluding that preserving the freedom of individual scholars to argue for or against any issue of political controversy requires ‘a heavy presumption against’ collective political action by the University itself.”
Katebi slammed the statement and said it was “absolutely ridiculous” because the administrators did not address the actual resolution in its statement.
“ [An] academic boycott is not at all called for in our statement and staying invested in one side of a political conflict is also not ‘neutral.’ Not only did they not read our resolution, but they also have no idea what ‘neutral’ means. UChicago reaffirming its dedication to apartheid is only going to make us work harder,” she said.