Several University students and former Central Student Government representatives appeared at Tuesday’s CSG meeting to discuss an incident last month that led representatives from Students Allied for Freedom and Equality to call for the removal of a current CSG representative.
SAFE held a demonstration on the Diag on Nov. 17 during which organizers displayed a pretend wall designed to represent the wall separating Israel and the West Bank. During the demonstration, CSG representative Jesse Arm, an LSA sophomore, was recorded loudly confronting and criticizing the demonstrators. In response, SAFE asked CSG to dismiss Arm from the assembly.
LSA junior Matt Fidel, a former CSG representative, said he wanted to contextualize the incident for the assembly, saying an 18-year-old named Ezra Schwartz was killed in a terrorist attack in the West Bank the same day as the demonstration.
“This was an American kid from Boston studying abroad in Israel,” Fidel said. “I can tell you from first-hand experience this was a very emotional day in the Jewish community.”
Fidel said after viewing the video, it was clear to him that Arm’s conduct was emotionally charged, as he was upset about the killing of Schwartz. However, Fidel said his conduct was not disrespectful, as he was voicing his opinion on a topic about which he and many members of the Jewish community felt strongly. He urged the assembly not to exclude Arm from the assembly.
“As a body, I’m not sure that CSG should be in the business of telling leaders on campus that they should not be standing up for what they believe in or voicing their opinions on what they feel strongly about,” Fidel said. “To have this protest and then not even understand slightly why this may have been a triggering experience for members of this community on campus I think is insensitive and also not really logical.”
Business senior Alex Adler, chair of University of Michigan Hillel, echoed Fidel’s comments. He said Arm was triggered by a particular phrase on SAFE’s wall and acted accordingly.
“He reacted emotionally. I’m not here to say if that was right or wrong, but what I will say that he is not the only one from the Jewish community who felt triggered,” Adler said.
Adler said rather than investigating Arm’s behavior, CSG should encourage a facilitated conversation on campus from dissenting student groups.
“I’m not here to play politics,” Adler said. “What I am here to say is what we have is an opportunity to have dialogue and discourse like we should in an academic environment.”
Third-year Law student John Lin, a former assembly member, voiced his disappointment in CSG for launching an Ethics Commission investigation of the incident, saying it would set a precedent which will restrain future representatives from engaging in activism.
“I think this sets a very low bar for what this assembly considers to be conduct unbecoming of a representative,” Lin said. “In the past, representatives in this body have done all sorts things with activism on this assembly that have gone far beyond what I saw in this video.”
Lin specifically brought up the arrest of assembly members during protests at past meetings of the University’s Board of Regents.
“So I wonder, if being arrested doesn’t count as conduct unbecoming of a representative and didn’t start ethics investigations, how does a civil discussion on the Diag reach that standard?” Lin said.
DPSS student advisory board
LSA senior Michael Fakhoury addressed the assembly Tuesday to discuss the launch of a Student Advisory Board for the Division of Public Safety and Security.
The Advisory Board will provide suggestions, recommendations and perspectives for DPSS Executive Director Eddie Washington during monthly meetings with him.
Applications for the year-long positions launched Tuesday after the meeting.
Fakhoury said the Advisory Board is designed to serve as a link between the University students and DPSS.
“Part of the application is what they hope to contribute to the advisory board and why they are interested,” Fakhoury said. “Last year, we sent around a campus-wide survey and an overwhelming amount of students said that they wanted this advisory board.”
Fakhoury said he approached Washington this year about the student advisory commission after receiving the results of the survey, which he conducted last year when he was chair of the CSG Safety Commission.
Fakhoury said the advisory board will hopefully launch by January.