In response to the Central Student Government’s decision Tuesday to indefinitely postpone voting on a resolution that would call for the University to divest from companies allegedly involved in human rights violations in Palestine, more than 100 University students, alumni and community members came and went throughout the night during an “indefinite” sit-in in CSG chambers Wednesday to demand a vote on the measure.
Students Allied for Freedom and Equality, a pro-Palestinian student organization, arranged the sit-in and also sponsored Tuesday’s protest in favor of divestment from Caterpillar, United Technologies, Heidelberg Cement and General Electric.
SAFE contends that the companies’ business practices in Israel makes them culpable in the country’s occupation of Palestine and alleged human rights violations. CSG postponed a vote on passing a divestment resolution by a vote of 21-15, with one abstention, and did not extend the time allowed for public comment.
In addition to demanding CSG vote on the resolution, SAFE initially called on CSG to make all of its meetings open to the public and to allow students unlimited speaking time at meetings. CSG currently allots 30 minutes for community concerns, and students are individually permitted three minutes of speaking time.
Three members of SAFE met with Dean of Students Laura Blake Jones and CSG representatives, including Business senior Michael Proppe, CSG president, behind closed doors late Wednesday night. At press time it was unclear whether any decisions or compromises had been made between the groups.
LSA senior Suha Najjar, a Palestinian American and member of SAFE, said CSG’s postponement of voting on the resolution and limitation on students’ speech was unjustifiable.
“I think yesterday what happened on this campus should never happen,” Najjar said. “What we’re hoping is to send a message that we’re the student body and you need to listen to us.”
“As a Palestinian, I felt it was extremely racist,” she added. “I felt like I was not important enough to speak.”
Proppe was unavailable for comment on the sit-in and CSG’s plan of action on the resolution due to the meeting between himself, Jones and the SAFE representatives.
SAFE and its allies arrived at the Union at 6 p.m. Wednesday to begin preparing for the sit-in. In an e-mail sent to supporters, SAFE told students “Bring your study materials, food, friends. The CSG chambers is our ‘indefinite’ home now.” Najjar said she plans to stay until CSG meets the demands.
LSA sophomore Sarah Raoof, who attended Tuesday’s CSG meeting, echoed Najjar and many other attendees in her concerns with how CSG addressed protesters’ concerns. Raoof said CSG has a responsibility to listen to the concerns of the student body.
“I felt that the whole issue was misrepresented as whole,” Raoof said. “We deserved more time to present the issue. I felt like it was pushed to the side … considering there were 300 people plus, I don’t think it was handled correctly.”
University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald confirmed Dean of Students Laura Blake Jones had “been in touch with a wide range of students” Wednesday regarding Tuesday’s CSG meeting, though he couldn’t give any further details of the meetings.
Advocates both for and against divestment spoke at Tuesday’s meeting, though opponents of the divestment resolution were not present at Wednesday’s sit-in. A large majority of those in attendance at the meeting Tuesday appeared to favor the resolution.
“I want multiple and diverse narratives to come together in peaceful and safe spaces on campus,” LSA junior Michele Freed, Hillel chair, said Tuesday. “Where all voices have a space and are respected. This polarizing resolution is bringing about just the opposite.”
Najjar said she spoke with Jones earlier in the day about concerns that University police would arrest students who did not leave the Union, where the CSG chambers are located, by 2 a.m. when the building closes.
The sit-in began just as it was reported that San Diego State University’s and Loyola University Chicago’s student governments passed similar divestment resolutions this week.
The University’s Board of Regents has not formally weighed in on divesting from companies involved in Israel’s actions in Palestine, though Regent Larry Deitch (D) voiced his opposition to divestment in principle in 2006.
Correction appended: A previous version of this article misstated that the proposed resolution calls for divestment from Hewlett-Packard. While SAFE has previously called for divestment from the company, it was not included in the current resolution. It also incorrectly stated LSA sophomore Sarah Raoof’s name. Finally, the actions of the Board of Regents in 2006 have been changed to reflect the historical record.