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Six members of the University of Michigan Board of Regents released an online statement rejecting Central Student Government’s recent resolution calling on the University to create a committee to investigate divestment from companies allegedly violating Palestinian human rights. 

The resolution authored by Students Allied for Freedom and Equality passed for the first time in the history of the decade-old #UMDivest movement in November. The Regents — comprised of Democrats Mike Behm, Mark Bernstein, Denise Ilitch and Republicans Andrew Richner, Ron Weiser, and Andrea Fischer Newman — wrote they will not only reject the specific resolution, but will not be in favor of future actions that propose divestment from Israel. 

“After careful consideration of this resolution, we decline to (support the resolution),” the statement read. “More broadly, we strongly oppose any action involving the boycott, divestment or sanction of Israel.”

In the board members’ reasoning for their decision, they emphasized their obligations to consider the interests of all those affiliated with the University.

“We must consider the broad landscape of university stakeholders including all students, our faculty, staff, alumni and the citizens of the State of Michigan,” the statement read. “We remain committed to the university’s longstanding policy to shield the endowment from political pressures.”

Further, the board members wrote the CSG resolution goes against the University’s values of interacting with the surrounding world.

“To boycott, divest or sanction Israel offends these bedrock values of our great university,” the statement reads. 

CSG president Anushka Sarkar, an LSA senior, presented the resolution at the Board’s meeting last Thursday. She submitted a redline version that omitted all mention of “Israel” or “Israeli” — no Regent commented on the resolution afterwards. Regent Shauna Ryder Diggs (D) did not sign the online statement, and wrote in an email she thought statements like these should be made at open, public meetings.

LSA senior Andrea, a member of Students Allied for Freedom and Equality who wishes to remain anonymous due to safety concerns, expressed her frustration with the statement. She said that the exclusion of the word “Palestine” from the statement insulted SAFE’s cause and core values.  

“What was completely dehumanizing and frankly racist was zero mention of ‘Palestine’ in their statement, and inaccuracies of the resolution,” she said. “To me, that demonstrated ignorance, irresponsibility, racism and honestly a huge lack of respect. To not make any mention of Palestine only exists to erase our existence even further than the occupation already does.”

LSA senior Joshua Blum, the outgoing chair of Hillel’s Governing Board, said he was glad the Board members took such a strong stance against divestment and any future proposals in the same vein. 
“I’m grateful for the Regents for providing a clear and strong response that they oppose any action regarding the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement or anything that relates to it,” Blum said.

Andrea also said the board’s statement shows its misunderstanding of the goal of the resolution—specfiically in regards to BDS. 

“Their statement calls to not boycott sanction and divestment from Israel. But that is not what we are doing,” she said. “We’re divesting from companies that are complicit in the occupation of Palestinian human rights. All of the companies that we listed are not even Israeli companies.”

CSG representative Hafsa Tout, an LSA senior, co-authored the resolution. Tout said she was not surprised by the regents’ decision, but was still disappointed — especially with the statement’s phrasing and date of release.

“I didn’t expect the statement to be worded in the way it was,” Tout said. “And something that bothers me about the timing is that the statement was released at the height of finals week. It makes it harder to figure out what to do with the statement.”

Andrea also discussed her disappointment with the regents’ decision to release a statement rather than directly talking to SAFE about the resolution.

“Not one of them contacted us to talk about this resolution. I emailed them to meet with us, or at least meet with me,” she said. “So that’s our next step. I demand at least a formal apology, and I will not let myself and people be disrespected.”

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