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September 07, 2005 - Image 39

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The Michigan Daily, 2005-09-07

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MSA votes against divestment "

The Michigan Daily - New Student Edition - Fall 2005 - 9C

By Jeremy Davidson
MARCH 16, 2005
Daily StaffWriter
Hundreds of anxious students and local
community members filled an emotionally
charged Michigan Union Ballroom when the
Michigan Student Assembly soundly defeated
a proposal advocating the creation of a com-
mittee to examine University investments in
companies that do business with Israel.
The overwhelming margin against the
resolution - 11 representatives voted in favor,
while 25 voted no - came as a surprise to
many MSA officials and observers, who had
said in the lead up to the vote that they expect-
ed a close outcome.
"I felt good with the outcome of the resolu-
tion especially given the recent developments
in the peace process between the Israelis and
the Palestinians," said MSA General Counsel
Jesse Levine.
Although MSA expected a high - turnout,
scheduling the meeting in the Kuenzel Room
of the Union instead of MSA chambers, the
turnout was so high that the meeting had to be
relocated a second time to the larger ballroom
and began an hour and half late.
The animosity and nervous energy in the
room was palpable, leading to spontaneous
altercations throughout the ballroom and
cramped hallways of the Union and causing
the Department of Public Safety to remove
a heckler during an address by former MSA
Vice President Jennifer Nathan. Raucous
cheers and applause, as well as numerous par-
liamentary questions, punctuated the meeting,
making it difficult at times for MSA President
Jason Mironov to control the large crowd.
Proceedings involved a speaker's list, with
advocates of both sides taking turns voicing

their opinion. Speakers included students, Uni-
versity professors and community members.
If passed, the resolution would have instruct-
ed the MSA External Relations Committee to
send a letter urging the University Board of
Regents to create an advisory committee to
investigate the moral and ethical implications
of the University's investments in companies
that directly support the Israeli occupation of
the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Opponents of the resolution argued that its
effect and intent went beyond merely forming
a committee, targeting Israel and ultimately
seeking divestment from the country. They
cited language in the proposal that condemned
the state of Israel and pointed to human rights
abuses and violations of international law.
After hearing these concerns from Mironov
and other members of MSA, MSA represen-
tative Matt Hollerbach and other authors of
the resolution made a motion to strike every
clause but the last three from the resolution, in
hopes to find more support for the formation
of a committee. With this move, the resolution
was eliminated of any direct condemnation of
Israel and called for an "advisory committee
consisting of members of the University Sen-
ate, students, administration and alumni."
Students Allied for Freedom and Equality
president Carmel Salhi emphasized that the
resolution called for the formation of a com-
mittee to investigate University investments.
"There are investments that many students
on this campus find morally and ethnically
questionable," Salhi said.
RC junior Ashwini Hardikar explained
that the resolution was not to encourage the
University to immediately divest from Israel,
but called for an investigation into potential
human rights violations.
"It's not an issue of whether or not you're

pro-Israel or pro-Palestine. It's a question of
whether or not human rights violations have
been committed," Hardikar said.
Other proponents of the resolution echoed
these sentiments.
"This resolution is about academic free-
dom, and the right to know whether the busi-
nesses that the University invests in realize
international human rights principles and
business ethics," said Nadine Naber, professor
of American Culture and Women's Studies.
But Mironov said that the language of the
resolution proposed a verdict before the trial.
"If it were simply a resolution to create a
committee, it wouldn't have 14 clauses con-
demning the state of Israel," Mironov said
prior to the elimination of 12 clauses.
Stories of suicide bombings in Israel were
followed by stories of Israeli soldiers attack-
ing civilians in Palestine, and while both
sides ardently defended their opinions and
claims, everyone agreed that the ultimate
goals were raising student awareness, and
peace in the region.
"You can't silence this issue any more.
We know that this occupation is immoral
and unethical, and we won't be silenced any
longer," said LSA freshman and member of
Amnesty International Nafisah Ula.
Vice-chair and co-founder of the Israeli
Students Organization Ziv Ragowski said he
hoped the debates would open up talk between
Palestinians and Israelis.
"People are recognizing the (desire) of both
nations to move towards peace and to end the
bloodshed," Ragowski said.
MSA General Counsel Jesse Levine said
he was impressed with the passionate student
support expressed at the meeting.
"I've never seen so many students at an
MSA meeting before," Levine said.

RC junior Ryan Bates speaks to another student in attendance during a crowded meeting where the MSA
voted against the formation of a committee to appraise Michigan's investments in certain companies.

Proposed PIRGIM resolution fails at final MSA meeting

By Laura Van Hyfte
MAY 3, 2005
Daily Staff Writer
A resolution proposed to reserve about
$20,000 to fund a University chapter of Public
Interest Research Group In Michigan was voted
down at the final Michigan Student Assembly
meeting on April 19. Approximately 19 MSA
representatives voted against the resolution, 13
voted for it, and five abstained.
Students for PIRGIM have been asking MSA
to fund a PIRGIM University chapter since the
fall. The chapter would have several tasks, such
as fighting high textbook prices, protecting ten-
ants, and attacking environmental concerns.
Students for PIRGIM were disheartened
after an injunction was filed by Elliott
Wells-Reid, a former MSA chief of staff.
The injunction enjoined MSA from voting
on allocating money to PIRGIM until MSA

had fully examined the legality of the PIR-
GIM proposal. It was upheld by the Central
Student Judiciary.
PIRGIM filed an appeal in response to the
CSJ injunction, but CSJ will not hear it until
this coming fall, after they have had time to
fully review the case.
PIRGIM then sought immediate action by
drafting a resolution. Roughly $20,000 was
requested to be reserved in the event that PIR-
GIM's appeal to the CSJ decision won.
Students for PIRGIM proposed a resolution
in an effort to reserve funding that would help
establish a housing hotline for students in the
fall, said Rese Fox, chair of MSA's External
Relations Committee.
"By reserving the money for Students for
PIRGIM, MSA would have demonstrated
a commitment to creating a pilot chapter if
CSJ heard an appeal and dropped the injunc-
tion against the Student PIRGIM chapter. This

monetary commitment would have allowed the
Student PIRGs to send a campus organizer to
help Students for PIRGIM set up a housing hot-
line in the fall and begin work on our textbook
campaign," said Fox.
Several MSA representatives failed to see
how reserving money for PIRGIM would be
practical, mostly because any resolution that
was passed at the final MSA meeting for the
semester would expire by the end of the meet-
ing. All resolutions passed at the April 19 meet-
ing regarding PIRGIM would be considered
symbolic, a source said.
Stuart Wagner, an MSA representative, vehe-
mently voiced his opposition to the resolution
because of its symbolic nature. He exclaimed
that it was ridiculous at the meeting.
"We don't need to give people $20,000 to do
work that we can do," Wagner said.
Those for and against PIRGIM have been fair-
ly close in number, and a considerable amount

of MSA representatives were unsure which way
they would vote before the meeting.
A 34-page document, written by former
MSA Vice President, Anita Leung, was given
to certain MSA members to convince them of
PIRGIM's short-comings.
The document titled "10 Reasons to Vote
NO On the Resolution to Fund a PIRGIM Pilot
Chapter," was a natter of some secrecy. Stu-
dents for PIRGIM were not given direct access
to the document, and many had no knowledge
of its existence until hours before the meeting
on April 19, Fox said.
Fox heard about the document the day before
the meeting from another representative. She
then received a copy the next day.
At the MSA office, located at the Union,
Rese Fox asked Stuart Wagner for access to the
document and was denied.
Newer members of MSA who were unde-
cided on the PIRGIM issue were the primary

recipients of the document, in a hope to sway
them into not voting to fund a PIRGIM chapter,
a source said.
"I thought it was critical for the MSA Repre-
sentatives to have an educated understanding of
both sides before voting," Leung said.
Leung felt that MSA members were not
granted knowledge to all of the downfalls of
funding a PIRGIM chapter at the University.
Leung listed, "Lack of MSA Jurisdiction
in Proposal," "Partisan Members and Bias,"
"Partisan Issues Nationally," and a "Lack of
Financial Accountability in Proposal" as rea-
sons why MSA representatives should vote no
against funding a student PIRGIM chapter.
Wagner was pleased with Leung's anti-PIR-
GIM work.
"It may have won over the people on the
fence; it offered some compelling evidence. I
think that Anita's document may have swung
some voters," Wagner said.

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