No divestment bill

Members of the Student Government Association spent two hours at their meeting on March 15 listening to students’ opinions about Israeli and Palestini issues. SGA indefinitely tabled a resolution, proposed by SGA Senator Gavin Caster, which recommended that the University stop investing in American companies who profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestine. “A resolution like this starts an incredibly necessary conversation about what position, we as a University can take on subjects outside Burlington, and what we as a community can do to act proactively,” Caster said. The resolution was a response to students who formed the group Students for Justice in Palestine. Members created a proposal asking the University to stop supporting the American companies that benefit from the occupation, he said. Many students supported this proposal and members of SGA felt the need to respond, Caster said. The university community has been active in responding to these concerns through open discussion at SGA meetings and conversations between senators and students of all groups involved with this issue, he said. Caster said he dislikes that people think the community and SGA did not act on students’ concerns. “We did act, by presenting the resolution and initiating dialogue,” he said. “To that extent, our actions were very powerful.” The decision to table the resolution was due to the fact that more dialogue and open conversation were needed, Caster said. “Every single action taken in this process was the best action that could have been taken for both sides, for the time being,” he said. It is very difficult for the Senate to vote on legislation that has the student body divided, Speaker of the Senate Claire Chevrier said. “We don’t want to vote on a legislation that can alienate students and make them feel that we are not listening,” Chevrier said. Students from Hillel, an organization that supports the Jewish community on campus, Vermont Students for Israel (VSI) and Students for Justice in Palestine said they agreed that tabling the resolution was the best decision. “I do think it was a good idea for [the resolution] to be tabled, regardless of where you fall on this issue,” said Nolan Rampy of Students for Justice in Palestine. “The position needs to come from an informed perspective.” As the issues surrounding the Israeli occupation of Palestine will be brought up in the future, it will hopefully be at a point when people are ready to make a decision, Rampy said. “This issue should not be taken lightly,” he said. “The issue here is about human rights; are these abuses taking place or aren’t they?” A meeting has already taken place between members of Hillel and Students for Justice in Palestine to create a way to have beneficial discussion between the two groups, Rampy said. “I know that this issue is extremely polarizing,” VSI President Hailey Stern said. Stern said that she hopes the bill will not be raised again, but if it is, her group is prepared to keep working to make sure that it does not pass. The more people we can make aware of what is going on and get to know the facts, the better the dialogue will be, she said. “If we can get more people educated, then that would be a success,” Stern said.