The Central Student Government proposed a resolution Tuesday night that would effectively end several years of attendance and speeches by an anti-Israel group at assembly meetings.
For a number of years, Ann Arbor resident Blaine Coleman, Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, a sponsored affiliate in the School of Public Health, and other activists have consistently spoke during the community concerns section of the weekly assembly meetings. While their presence — often expressing anti-Israel sentiments — has stirred the assembly before, a resolution introduced Tuesday would give non-University students only one opportunity per semester to address the assembly during the community concerns.
Per the proposed resolution, members of the community can still address the assembly if the topic of their address is relevant to CSG business and is approved by the speaker. However, because divestment from Israel is unlikely to be an agenda item at meetings, Coleman and Savabieasfahani would not be allowed to address the assembly again this semester.
Both Savabieasfahani and Coleman spoke at the Tuesday night assembly meeting and denounced the resolution. Savabieasfahani received two warnings during her speech from Michael Proppe, a Business junior and assembly speaker, and had to be gaveled down when her time expired.
“By trying to silence the only voices who bring these atrocities to you … you are doing nobody any favors,” Savabieasfahani said. “By callously ignoring lives of Palestinians, you are allowing huge injustices to go on. I hold you responsible for the death of many thousands of people”
Coleman didn’t receive any warnings, but he was harsher in his judgment of the assembly.
“Everyone who raises their hand to silence the talk of Palestine in this chamber is a racist who hates Palestinians, hates Arabs, hates Muslims and will be announcing themselves as such,” Coleman said.
In his explanation of the resolution to the assembly, Andrew Modell, an Engineering sophomore and the rules committee vice chair, said the current open door policy on speakers is a hindrance to meeting operations and its representation of the student body.
“A majority of community concerns that we hear are not necessarily from the students … and often times we have heard the same message over and over and over,” Modell said. “While we do want to be able hear from those who aren’t students we really don’t want that to be our priority.”
Law School representative Jeremy Keeney said non-students can still apply to speak during the guest speakers portion of assembly meetings.
“What we tried to do is we tried to balance the concerns of people in the community as well as recognizing that our time is precious,” he said.
During the assembly’s matters arising section — a part of the agenda where CSG members can speak on issues they’re working on — members heard significant discussion from both supporters and opponents of the resolution.
LSA sophomore and representative Daniel Morales said he did not approve of or agree with the Coleman and Savabieasfahani’s speeches, but added that the resolution could become a “gag rule.”
Discussion continued until Rackham representative Patrick O’Mahen redirected the assembly to focus more on personal reports from representatives rather than instigating debate.
He added that while he has not decided how he will vote on the resolution, the debate was not as inflammatory as he anticipated.
LSA senior Arielle Zupmore, a co-author of the resolution, said in an interview after the meeting that while Coleman and Savabieasfahani’s consistent attendance at assembly meetings prompted the resolution, the resolution was drawn up to have a broader purpose.
During the matters arising section, Zupmore said she and other assembly members have felt uncomfortable when Coleman and Savabieasfahani speak.
“When speakers like that come and say really negative things, it’s great that they come once and say that, but every week I’m sitting in my seat, cringing,” Zupmore said. “I had to walk out one week, and I don’t want have to walk out every week. I’m supposed to be listening to the concerns of our students.”
Zupmore added, however, that she would not be against any student who would like to discuss the issue of divestment from Israel at meetings because the assembly has a responsibility to listen to its constituents.
Modell said in an interview after the meeting that while community members would be able to speak on issues relevant to the meeting under the proposed resolution, there are no plans to incorporate language into the resolution that would require the agenda to be made publicly available online before the meeting.