VSA Council 3.6.16

7:02//Call to Order and Attendance

Everyone is here.

7:08//Consensus agenda

a. Conference to On Tap (1350/2070)

b. Social Consciousness to VPI (2000/2000)

c. Discretionary to LiNK (0/100)

d. Pre-Org to Majors (0/100)

e. Discretionary to Crafts Not Bombs (400/400)

f. Discretionary to Crafts Not Bombs (86.83/86.83)

g. Conference to TransMission (500/500)

h. Minutes from 2/21

Finance: Five people are going to the On Tap conference. VPI is hosting a workshop. LiNK wants to do a fundraiser, but we don’t pay for that. We don’t do reimbursements, you have to apply for funding before hand.

7:09//Reports

Activities: No reports.

Finance: No reports.

Academics: I’m meeting with Colleen Mallet this week to talk about gender pronouns.

Ops: No reports.

Pres: No reports.

StuLife: Dining focus groups tomorrow. Please go if you were asked to be a part of it.

BOEA: I have no email. Elections are happening. Filing will open March 26, the Saturday before we get back from break. Then March 30 will be a candidates meeting. Campaigning starts immediately after.

Ferry: Are we advertising the new positions?

Ops: I’ll be there the whole time to explain things.

7:13//Constituent Concerns

SoCos: The Bridge access is not there yet. The plan is for full 24/7 access. They want to fix the door between Olmsted and the Bridge. Once that’s fixed, they will do it.

7:15//BDS Resolution and Amendment SJP and JVP

SJP: The main changes are the removal of the boycotting of Zionism. We do not agree with that. We added that BDS does not take a stance on Zionism.

At-Large: How exactly is this going to be enforced?

Ops: Speaking from an operational standpoint, the amendment would mean the VSA wouldn’t spend its funds from here on out on these specific things.

Finance: Right now we don’t allow people to buy certain items. People submit receipts. I review those receipts. It would be the same.

At-Large: In the resolution, there is a part that references right of return. There is no international law that recognizes right of return. Can we adjust the language?

SJP: It is from a UN resolution…the binding of this is moral and ethical.

At-Large: How it is relevant to reference intersectional feminism?

SJP: A number of the organizations that made the initial call for BDS were women’s organizations. And the patriarchal nature of colonial regimes.

At-Large: One of the most horrible consequences of occupation is rape and sexual assault.

At-Large: Would we boycott Metro North because GE builds those trains?

SJP: I think we have allowances in Finance Committee. It’s not cut and dried.

Town Students: I think we have to remind ourselves to be respectful here. Not everyone is on the same plane of knowledge.

SJP: I feel like it is worth trying to frame the conversation. There are many complicated aspects of BDS. The core of the issue is simple, whether or not we are willing to stand by the oppressed. We want to recenter the conversation on the Palestinian people.

At-Large: I do not appreciate this dichotomy you are offering, standing with the oppressed or standing with the oppressor. You solution is not necessarily the correct one. There are many ways to support Palestine. To say that nobody on campus, regardless of what they believe, should be allowed to buy these products is a problem.

At-Large: I wanted to shift the conversation to shared governance. Shared governance has been threatened by the Board and Administration. I want to urge council to postpone the vote.

At-Large: This was mentioned last time, that we are forcing people to not subscribe to BDS. You have to acknowledge that you are always forcing people to add their money to something they really don’t believe in.

At-Large: …the voices of students of color should be sought after concerning this report. We have grown from a variety of oppression in the past.

At-Large: I recognize the aftermath of the intimidation. JStreet Vassar doesn’t agree with these groups. I want the VSA to hold true to the promise to vote true. We want the VSA to vote no because JStreet does not agree with BDS.

THs: I want to speak to the Administration and what happened this week. They could have sent that out in August. For them to then go into a mode of basically threaten us the Thursday before we vote is very unfortunate. I’ve been clear. I plan on voting no and I have a number of reasons why. It is about the symbolism that we stand for; it is truly bizarre. It is more than this.

At-Large: I’m glad that people have brought up the Canary Mission and the Administration. It shows where the power lies.

At-Large: The Administration was very disrespectful, and don’t change your vote. But please don’t pass this. They are making a move to protect the students. This is a discriminatory amendment. This fundamentally destroys my right as a student.

At-Large: The resolution explicitly states that the BDS movement does not take a stance on Zionism. The resolution is supported by students of color and the marginalized students on campus.

At-Large: Who has more to lose here? I believe the Palestinian state does not threaten the Jewish state. We should advocate for a two-state solution. Israel is important. We need to have a place to come home to. We should not support any resolution that does not acknowledge the right for the Jewish state to exist.

At-Large: The dichotomy between the two powers is one of the oppressed and the oppressor. We are trying to help those that are marginalized and oppressed. if you question who has more to lose, you have to think about the dichotomy that exists.

Joss: You know who’s voices have truly be silenced and squandered? Black and brown bodies, queer and trans folks, Palestinians. We are being targeted for our existence.

At-Large (VPI): VPI supports the BDS resolution.

At-Large: In reference to Joss, the Israeli existence was fought against by Palestine. There’s bloodshed on both sides.

At-Large: I wanted to represent Jewish Voice for Peace. I wanted, on JVP, to speak in opposition of using the Holocaust in this conversation. Nobody can speak for all Jews. We are active supporters of BDS on campus. Just because genocide was invoked as a political tool. It affects people in this room, that historical trauma.

At-Large: We need to act collectively.

At-Large: I am speaking on behalf of the Multi Racial Biracial Students Alliance. Colonization is something that is bad. Jewish students are not all in agreement with this issue. It’s more complicated.

At-Large: I would like to begin by commending the BDS Coalition. I think we need to take a good look at what they have presented. What good does it do? We shouldn’t neglect the lives of students on this campus. If this were to fail, nobody would transfer out of Vassar. This has a major effect on campus climate.

Strong: I disagree with what he said, but I feel like this conversation has devolved into oppression vs oppression. That’s awful. I think this is merely for creating a space for students with marginalized voices. That’s important.

THs motions to extend time by 10 minutes.

Pres: It is 14 yes, 8 no, 1 extension. It passes.

At-Large: I feel that the discussion that we are having now is very based on the views of Americans. As a person from the Middle East without American nationality, I want to speak about how we are talking about real people and real individuals. We talk about being Jewish, Middle Eastern, Arab, Muslim…we have to talk about nationality. We encourage people to think about the implications of being American. Tax-payers are inevitably supporting Israel.

Ferry: The amount of antisemitism that surrounds this issue is horrific. Its been bad for me, but its been worse for other people. We don’t have to make this divisive. It’s not creating a safe environment. JStreet offered an alternative.

THs: We keep using the language of dichotomy and power. The biggest problem with this discussion is that we aren’t having a discussion about the historical context. It’s about more than just European Jews.

At-Large: Some of us do not have institutional support. I’m an Arab-Muslim student. I have nobody. Some of us are institutionally discriminated against.

At-Large: Some of us don’t have the privilege of color.

At-Large: I think the misconception of all Jews being the same is wrong. Not all Jews here are rich and white.

Pres: We are going to move into the voting process.

SJP: This is an incredibly contentious issue. We do have to have a conversation about who’s voices are being marginalized.

At-Large: I think it is pretty clear that this is divisive. I’m anti-BDS, pro-Israel and pro-Palestine. I’m disgusted by what is happening here, by pitting students against each other. This is a real problem. BDS isn’t the right way to solve this problem. It’s not as simple as we want it to be. We aren’t being nuanced. We are dichotomizing everything.

SJP: I think the amendment is an important part of the resolution. It changes the way our funding works. Historically when we supported the bottled water divestment, we can easily make this happen. It’s a simple way to be in solidarity with the Palestinian people. I would be unfortunate to pass one and not the other.

At-Large: I hope the VSA does not pass this amendment. We have to look at the activism we are doing….the action is not so good.

The council proceeds with their anonymous vote.

Pres: To pass the resolution, you just need a majority, the amendment needs 2/3 in favor. For the resolution, 15 in favor, 7 opposed. For the amendment, 12 in favor, and 10 opposed. The resolution passes, but the amendment does not.

Five minute break.

8:42//Anti Occupation Activism Resolution J Street U

JStreet: Pretty much the same as last week. We separated the committee into a charter.

Cushing: If the BDS resolution passes, we are not voting in favor of the resolution.

Ops: What is upheld, is what was last passed. We still have to vote now.

THs: In regard to the education committee. Can you strike it? Nobody seems down with it. It seems privileging.

At-Large: The VSA will not take a position on BDS. This will cancel out what just happened.

At-Large: I believe the anti-occupation resolution to be self-undermining. I would like to raise a complaint. Two clauses conflict. I urge you to vote against it, anti-BDS activists will continue to come to the VSA.

JStreet: It’s an educational committee. It’s purpose is to offer opportunities to the campus to engage with Israel-Palestine issues. I don’t think it has any institutional power in the VSA.

At-Large: SJP and JStreet do not work together. How can this committee work then? I think this is an imposition on orgs.

At-Large: I think it is pretty clear what people at this school care about. Look at the room. SJP and JVP refusing to work with JStreet and the conversation from tonight shows how much we still have to do.

At-Large: Unfortunately, SJP and JVP won’t work with individuals. Maybe you should work with more people. The campus climate right now is not very good. Only at Vassar can a conversation like this can erupt this way.

THs: It is interesting to see how many people are in the room now. I want to respond to a comment to somebody who is not here anymore concerning institutional support. I am at a loss for words. This has been such a beautiful waste of my last semester. If the Administration cared so much, they would have been facilitating this dialogue from the beginning. This issue is so damaging.

SoCos: So there should be no call for a charter. It’s separate.

JStreet: The last three clauses are struck, actually.

Joss: The voices that want to be talking, are often silenced. How do we make sure as a VSA, that those voices are being heard and advocated for in real institutional ways?

JStreet: This is just one step in one issue that we feel needs to be talked about. I think there is no doubt that more committees should be formed.

Lathrop: Committees like these have been attempted in the past and have failed? What do you think will be different about this committee?

JStreet: If this committee is formed, we will work hard to push to make it work. We want people to be comfortable to be in it. I can’t say it is going to be thriving and wonderful, but why not just try?

THs: I just don’t have faith in the capacity of students to do this well, to make it something positive. Part of my issue is that we are framing this around an American understanding, not a Middle Eastern one. I don’t want people to waste their time and ultimately be hurt.

JStreet: To the 15 of you who voted yes to the previous resolution, I believe you made the wrong choice. It’s not simple. People are fighting for a right to land. They have been fighting for a really long time. I support Palestinians. We need to stop and think about the resolution we just endorsed. I’m scared to call it antisemitism. We let it go and don’t allow ourselves to call it out when it is antisemitism. If you vote for this, you can fix what you just did. I think we have damaged Vassar for…I used to imagine looking back at these four years and being proud of this institution. But now I’m not so sure. We can look at this empty room and see what people really care about. It’s not about winning. People are dying. Do what you think is right.

At-large: I affirm how difficult it has been for anti-BDS activists. The VSA has voted and passed the BDS resolution. For logical reasons, it makes no sense to pass this resolution. I don’t think that we need the resolution. I think it would stifle further BDS activism on this campus. To pass this, would be to rebuke the work that many activists who did leave. I think it is about winning, though. We listened to the voices of the people who are dying.

4 yes, 15 no, 3 abstentions for Resolution.

6 yes, 14 no, 2 abstentions for Charter.

9:20//Open Discussion

Ferry: What’s been happening on this campus isn’t great. We need to do something about this. Truly hateful things have been said. I don’t want this to be a one-sided debate anymore. We should make this positive and not hurtful.

THs: I do not have faith in students to be able to do anything about this. We keep talking about Israel as if it is a normal colonial state. This is a distinct, different type. I would just like to say that I’m very skeptical about anything moving forward on this. I don’t see this getting better for Jewish students. I don’t know what we do from here, but we need to be very cognizant. We are hurting people. That’s a serious problem.

At-Large: We talked about emotional tolls. I want to recognize the emotional toll taken on council.

At-Large: I don’t want your help anymore. Or Vassar’s help anymore.

SoCos: Can we change focus now. Trustees? Are we planning any sort of resolution or something? How do we proceed?

2017: Deviate back, I feel very complicit in the antisemitism that was occurring tonight. We couldn’t do anything to any of the people laughing at people crying. We need to do something to stop this. We have to be able to kick people out.

At-Large: I think it is important to recognize and listen to Jewish voices.

StuLife: The College will not strike it because it is symbolic. It’s out of our hands though.

J: What are the possibilities to having this be brought to referendum?

At-Large: the numbers in this room are not indicative of the numbers on this campus.

THs: Less than 10 people came to talk to me in favor of BDS and over 30 against it. We are adults. Public people. There has been an incredible lack of accountability for us, as adults.

At-Large: If we want to repeal this, or something else comes up in the future,…I found out from a member of council that this was going to be voted on in August. You did a tremendous amount. But a few of you didn’t do your homework.

Pres: It says in the constitution, that they have two academic weeks to get signatures for a referendum. It is 5% for the resolution and 15% for the amendment.

2018: The conversation that happened in here was disrespectful. I was scared to say something. The disrespect and tones tonight were hateful. We couldn’t do anything. We are supposed to be facilitators. We do have the power to tell people to be respectful. I think everyone in this room was ready to vote on this.

2019: There was a lot of disrespect on all sides. We appreciate those that stayed as well.