ASG hears from NU Divest, passes Real Food Challenge

    ASG drew an unusually large crowd at its meeting Wednesday. Spectators dragged in chairs to listen to representatives of Northwestern Divest convince student senators to pass its resolution.

    This week, NU Divest presented their resolution to support Northwestern University divestment from six companies who conduct business with the Israeli government.

    Senators asked questions for 25 minutes before moving on. They will discuss the resolution more next Wednesday.

    "The reason that you as senators and representatives of Northwestern need to take a stand on this issue is because we as students are complicit," said Weinberg junior Noah Whinston, who helped present the resolution for NU Divest. "It is our moral responsibility to leverage our power to make sure Northwestern makes responsible and moral decisions."

    The resolution would represent support from the Northwestern student body to divest from the six companies that NU Divest says are aiding in human rights violations in Palestine.

    Whinston said Northwestern's investment information is not public, so there's no way to no for certain if the university is truly invested in the six companies, which are based in the U.S., Britain and Israel, but it is highly likely according to research.

    Questions from senators revolved around the political tension of the issue- why target Israel? Is this a political statement or a divestment from the Israeli state?

    NU Divest representatives stressed that their resolution was purely a human rights issue and they did not want to bring politics into the discussion.

    "We have not had this conversation [about politics] even one time," said presenter Weinberg senior Imtisal Khokher. "Because it's irrelevant. It's not what we're doing."

    Senators also asked if the group believed in a one- or two-state solution.

    "I think we would certainly describe ourselves as pro-Palestine, but that doesn't make us anti-Israeli," Whinston said.

    He addressed the controversy over the resolution, which has manifested on campus and in social media, by saying he didn't want students to feel uncomfortable about it, but that discomfort already exists.

    "I'm Jewish, but I feel uncomfortable with the status quo that investment in these companies is being done, according to Israel, in the name of Jews everywhere," Whinston said. "The status quo is not some holy place where nobody feels uncomfortable. It's already making plenty of people uncomfortable."

    Senators still raised some concerns over the resolution, including its connection to the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement which in total supports divestment from the state of Israel. The NU Divest representatives emphasized that their resolution only calls for divestment from the six companies.

    After talking to NU Divest, the Senate passed the real food challenge resolution, which calls for 20 percent of food in campus dining and Sodexo to be "real" food.

    Real food has to fit one or more of four requirements: locally sourced, ecologically sound, fair and/or humane. According to the presentation in the Senate, Northwestern already falls somewhere in the teens for percentage of real food served.

    The group bringing the Real Food Challenge resolution to the table has been talking with Sodexo since August to begin the process and the corporation is doing a baseline survey to review their current purchasing.

    Senators debated how the resolution could increase dining costs for students before voting.

    "There are going to be consequences to this resolution," said McCormick sophomore Nick McCombe, senator for the Interfraternity Council. "Cost in some form will go up. Improving food on campus is a noble cause, but I want everyone to go into this with clear eyes."

    Miranda Cawley, a member of the Real Food campaign at Northwestern, maintained that an increase in costs is not certain. "We would not be going forward with this if we felt it was not an economical choice for students," she said. 

    Other campuses have already signed the Campus Commitment for Real Food, including George Washington University and Johns Hopkins University. The resolution in support of Northwestern signing the Commitment passed with a few abstainers.

    One senator said that despite the potential financial changes, the resolution could be a part of something bigger.

    "Sodexo is a multinational corporation that charges students a ton to eat food," Weinberg senior Moira Geary said. "If a lot of colleges were to pass this Real Food challenge, potentially we would see a future where companies like Sodexo wouldn't have a complete monopoly over our food systems."

    ASG also passed a resolution introduced by Executive Vice President Erik Zorn to make internal edits to senate documents to reflect recent name and committee changes.

    Correction Feb. 12, 10:06 p.m.: The article previously stated that similar resolutions passed at GWU and Johns Hopkins. In fact, these universities have signed the Campus Commitment to Real Food, whereas Northwestern's ASG has only passed a resolution in favor of the University doing so. Cawley's quote in response to suggestions that the Commitment would raise costs of food for the University was also added in for clarity. 


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