Divest-from-Israel vote at U.C. Santa Cruz under investigation, results on hold

A U.C. Santa Cruz student assembly vote last week on divestment from Israel is on hold as university officials investigate potential irregularities in the manner in which the resolution was passed.

Submitted by the Santa Cruz Committee for Justice in Palestine, the resolution initially failed to get a two-thirds majority needed for passage. However, the Student Union Assembly then voted to suspend the bylaws, allowing for a simple majority vote. The resolution then was resubmitted and passed, 22-14.

Two days after the May 28 vote, Shaz Umer, chair of the SUA, issued a press release. “After receiving questions on the validity of the vote … I am currently reviewing what transpired at the meeting in consultation with the dean of students,” he wrote. “We are reviewing university policy, the [SUA] constitution and bylaws, and Robert’s Rules of Order.”

The resolution has not been implemented, and Umer said he would issue a statement regarding the validity of the vote “in the next few weeks.”

U.C. Santa Cruz Chancellor George Blumenthal, in a letter to the SUA, chided members for passing the measure. “I strongly disagree with the conclusion you reached,” he wrote. “Your approval could have a chilling effect on individuals within our campus community …  the Israeli-Palestinian conflict deserves full and open discussion and debate, something I fear this resolution could in fact suppress.”

The resolution calls for U.C. Santa Cruz to divest holdings in companies such as Lockheed Martin, Caterpillar and others, claiming they “directly support or profit from [Israel’s] human rights violations.” The resolution is called the University Socially Responsible Investment Resolution, and its passage is only symbolic, as university officials have said they will not divest from any company as a result of student resolutions.

Santa Cruz Hillel director Jim Atkins said he has spoken with the chancellor’s office, the Anti-Defamation League and Jewish Community Relations Council about the resolution and the vote. — dan pine