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CSG proposal limiting community speakers fails

By Giacomo Bologna, Staff Reporter
Published October 2, 2012

Despite garnering a majority of votes from representatives, the assembly failed to pass a resolution Tuesday night that would limit speakers during the community concerns portion of Central Student Government meetings after it did not achieve the two-thirds majority necessary to amend CSG operating procedures.

The resolution — which received 12 votes in favor, 10 votes in opposition and one abstention — was proposed last week, and would have allowed non-students only one opportunity per semester to address CSG in regards to non-agenda items. The policy would have hampered efforts by anti-Israel protesters Blaine Coleman and Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, who have consistently attended meetings for years to encourage the University to divest from Israel.

While resolutions about interns for CSG and funding for a pep rally on the Diag before the Michigan State game were discussed, reforming community concerns was the main topic of discussion for the second consecutive week.

Several anti-Israel protesters came to the meeting, some wielding signs, as the deliberations proceeded. The meeting grew tense when Assembly Speaker Michael Proppe, a Business junior, gave Savabieasfahani her third warning of the semester midway through her speech for calling out assembly members and saying “the few Zionists on the assembly.”

Savabieasfahani was not allowed to finish her speech, but would go on to receive another warning before the end of the meeting for attempting to address the assembly when she wasn't recognized. She will not be allowed to speak at next week's meeting.

Tension at the meeting subsided until Proppe gave Coleman his second warning of the semester — preventing him from speaking further at Tuesday’s meeting — for applauding another anti-Israel speaker, as applauding speakers during community concerns is prohibited.

Coleman, who had not yet given his speech that night, stood up and gave Proppe a dumbfounded look. Proppe again explained the rule to Coleman who began to storm out of the CSG chambers, but not before turning to approach the sitting representatives, vitriolically raising an anti-Israel sign above his head and staring down the executive board.

Later in the meeting, CSG president Manish Parikh addressed the situation in case any further incidents unfolded.

“As soon as today's assembly's meeting is over, let's not hang around much here. We'll just leave quickly, lock down the place,” he said. “DPS is on stand-by in case there are any issues.”

Parikh also delivered an executive address to the assembly in light of previous anti-Israel speakers decried the assembly's disinterest in their speeches and criticized the organization’s lack of diversity.

“We've been accused today (of being) an assembly … which does not have diversity. I want everyone to take a look around this room. We have people of Latino-American ancestry, Native-American ancestry, of Indian-American ancestry. We have Serbian-Americans, we have Chinese-Americans,” he said. “We are a diverse organization and we will continue to fight for every single student on campus no matter what religion of community they originate from.”

The first community concerns speaker was Law student John Lin, who served as a representative in the assembly as an undergraduate. He said the assembly faced a similar situation from protesters in 2009, but was primarily able to prevent them from speaking at meetings with a resolution.

He encouraged the assembly to pass the resolution, adding that as a student, he did not want to see his representatives discuss issues that were not pertinent to students.

During the matters arising portion of the meeting, Rackham representative Patrick O'Mahen said regardless of the outcome of the resolution, the assembly already failed to serve its students since it spent the rest of the meeting extenuating arguments about divestment from Israel rather than moving to new topics.

“They baited us and we took the bait, and we talked about this again and again,” he said. “Please let's not have any more resolutions on community concerns.”