NEWS

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June 1, 2021

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12:07 a.m.

CC To Vote on Resolution to Retract USG Statement on Palestine

Haskell Hall on a cloudy spring day.

Haskell Hall on a cloudy spring day.

Adyant Kanakamedala / The Chicago Maroon

USG will vote this week on a resolution to retract a statement released last Friday in support of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and to issue an apology to the UChicago Jewish community from the members of incoming USG involved in the creation of the statement. 

The statement, which was attributed to the incoming members of undergraduate Student Government in collaboration with SJP, said that "UChicago Undergraduate Student Government unequivocally condemns the violence carried out by Israel and stands in support of a free Palestine, where Palestinians can live without fear. We support the divestment of the University of Chicago from Israeli companies in compliance with the larger standing Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, endorsed by 170+ Palestinian organizations.”

The resolution, introduced Monday night, greets an already-tense campus embroiled in debate over Israel-Palestine relations. The same night the statement was released on Twitter, a group of Jewish students reported that as they returned from a service at UChicago Hillel, a passerby drove by them and “repeatedly yelled out ‘F*ck Jews.’” In the days following the release of the SG statement, seven Jewish groups on campus signed an open letter by UChicago Hillel addressed to the incoming student government. The letter accused the incoming student government of using antisemitic language, saying “Student Government unequivocally rejects Jewish people’s right to self-determination.” Like the resolution, Hillel’s letter called for USG to retract the statement and extend an apology to Jewish students. Additionally, a group of 452 students, parents, alumni, and faculty signed a petition in opposition to the USG statement and requesting a retraction and apology. 

In a response to Hillel’s open letter, the UChicago chapter of the pro-Palestinian Jewish organization IfNotNow rejected Hillel’s condemnation of USG. A separate petition has circled among students, staff, and alumni in support of “a USG that stands for a “Free Palestine.” It had 210 signatures from undergraduate students as of Monday night, as well as 118 graduate students, staff, and alumni. 

The College Council resolution alleges that not all members of USG were consulted when the statement was being drafted, and that some members were not notified even after it was published online. Among the unconsulted members was Jordan Zelch, the Jewish Representative on the Student Government Committee on Marginalized Affairs (COMSA). Per the resolution, COMSA committed to consulting with its Jewish representative on all USG actions related to Israel-Palestine and SJP—a commitment made at the start of winter quarter and reaffirmed in a May 14 committee meeting.

The resolution claims that the statement was made in violation of SG and USG policy, which prohibits the Executive Slate from issuing statements without the approval of a majority of CC.

If the resolution is passed, its provisions would prevent the incoming Executive Slate from publishing any statement on behalf of USG between June 21 and October 3 without first receiving the approval of a majority of the student legislature and “at least one Zoom or in-person deliberation convening a quorum of the College Council.” 

Every CC member will either abstain or vote yes or no on the resolution by the end of the day on June 4. Julia Brestovitskiy, a College Council Representative and Incoming Student Government Community & Government Liaison, sponsored the resolution. 

In a comment to The Maroon, USG representative Allen Abbott noted that any College Council member may motion to amend the resolution and said, “College Council urges all students, in support of and in opposition to the resolution, to contact their representatives and express their views on the matter.” Students may view their College Council representatives here and contact their representative using the "get help" form on the College Council homepage.

Pranathi Posa, Yiwen Lu, and Michael McClure contributed additional reporting.

This article was updated on June 1st at 4:00 PM CT to incorporate additional information. 

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