Resolution 27-04, the controversial bill written by Undergraduate Student Government (USG) Treasurer, Tim O’Shea, and third-year student and former USG member Andrew Thompson, calls on the university to divest from all holdings with companies involved with occupation of the Gaza Strip and West Bank. It was taken off the discussion table at USG’s April 3 General Assembly (GA) after opposition arose amongst USG and the student body.
The bill is officially described as a “resolution calling on Case Western Reserve University to fully divest its assets from Israel’s illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories.” The GA at which Resolution 27-04 was to be proposed, April 3, fell during the Jewish holiday of Passover, which is observed from March 30 through April 7.
Although the agenda’s interference with Passover received backlash, Thompson said, “The resolution was to be introduced on Passover only because that was the only option per the existing USG schedule.”
On March 25, Treasurer Tim O’Shea released an email stating the resolution would be introduced at USG’s April 3 GA. O’Shea encouraged members of the CWRU community to access various scholarly and academic resources on the issue, all of which were linked in the email, and a schedule of events before the body was to vote on the bill on April 17.
In the email, O’Shea also explained a five-month-long process of putting the resolution together and that two speakers, Associate Professor of Political Science Dr. Pete Moore and Professor of History and Law Dr. Ted Steinberg, were invited to educate those in attendance on “the history of the occupation and the politics of the occupation in the United States.”
Many recipients of the email, however, took issue with the fact that both Moore and Steinberg are associated with holding similar views towards the resolution, both unfavorable towards Israel. Steinberg recently published an article on Cleveland.com which expressed his opposition to Ohio House Concurrent Resolution 10, which “condemns ‘increasing incidents of anti-Semitism’ on Ohio college campuses and specifically the ‘anti-Israel activities and activities promoting the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions [BDS] movement against Israel,’” according to the piece.
Many students encouraged the community to sign an online petition against the discussion of the bill until the conclusion of Passover.
The petition, released by Jonathan Stebbins and found on change.org, reads, “While many students and faculty will be off-campus to participate in this religious observance with their families, a group of [CWRU] students and faculty will be campaigning to promote a resolution in our student government that threatens Jewish life on campus and targets Israeli communities. By inviting speakers to [GA] during the holiday, the authors severely limit the chance to have a fair discussion of their legislation.”
It goes on to state, “Introducing a divestment resolution on a major holiday is a tactic seen at other schools by groups with similar aims. We, the students of [CWRU], find this disrespect to a major holiday disappointing.”
First-year nursing student Rachel Loewy, who signed the petition, was “pleasantly surprised” that so many others signed it as well.
The petition received 511 signatures, and, at its March 29 Executive Committee meeting, led USG to hold back from discussing the resolution.
“511 people signed it, which was amazing,” Loewy said. “It was great to see the university community so supportive.”
Thompson said that Steinberg and Moore’s presentation was also blocked by the Executive Committee, which he feels is “further preventing an informed dialogue.”
USG stated, “We will update the campus community in advance of any presentation, discussion or vote on this [resolution] in order to ensure that all members of the campus community interested in voicing their opinions on this issue may be able to do so.”
On behalf of his constituents’ sentiments, first-year USG representative Hunter Stecko was pleased with USG’s decision to delay the bill’s discussion.
“I personally think it was the right thing to do,” Stecko said. “[The online petition] called us to delay it, proving broad student support for the decision. It was good that USG responded to the wishes of our constituents, and I think generally we need to listen to the friends, classmates and peers we represent, especially on a more contentious issue such as the divestment bill before us.”
O’Shea and Thompson also supported USG’s decision.
“We were the first to suggest that at the [March 29] Executive Committee meeting,” Thompson said.
However, Thompson called the Executive Committee’s decision to knock the bill from discussion at both GA meetings “unconstitutional,” claiming that the move “is meant to stifle dissent as it violates our rights as members of USG to introduce legislation and is in direct contradiction of CWRU’s policies in support of academic freedom.”
He said, “Suppressing this legislation will ensure that CWRU’s contribution to the violent military occupation of Palestine continues unchecked.”
Thompson added that he and O’Shea’s efforts still hold support, and that Steinberg along with the Radical Student Union will host events in upcoming weeks which are geared to educate the community on their cause.