The Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) introduced a resolution to ASG Wednesday night, asking the body to acknowledge an act of vandalism the group experienced earlier that morning, when a banner the group put up near the Arch disappeared, “with cords still tied to the tree that had clearly been cut with a blade,” according to the language of the resolution introduced to Senate.
The banner had a statement that read, “More than 5.3 million Palestinians have been forced out of their homes by the state of Israel since its creation,” and the sponsors of the resolution believed that the vandalism was politically motivated.
ASG Senator and SJP member Moira Geary, who introduced the bill along with ASG Senator Ruba Assaf, ASG Public Relations Committee member Zahra Haider and SJP member Yusuf Kudaimi, asked senators to “condemn theft of the banner and promote a safe place for student groups” to express their political opinions. She and other representatives from SJP pointed to multiple acts of vandalism which the group has faced over the last few years, including vandalism to the Rock after the group had painted it.
“We feel that SJP as well as any other group should be able to carry out normal sanctioned activities without feeling threatened or face the threat of theft or damage of property,” Geary said to the assembly.
“It is imperative that we deal with this in the quickest manner possible and that we are quick to respond to injustice on campus,” Geary said, so that students would feel “empowered and comfortable to express their views” on campus.
The resolution sparked debate over whether or not to include a clause implying that the act of vandalism “disrespects the 5.3 million individuals displaced from their homes by the State of Israel, which includes members of Northwestern families.”
ASG senators debated whether or not to include the clause with some senators saying it made the overall statement unnecessarily politicized and drew attention away from promoting free speech and condemning the act of vandalism itself.
In response, Assaf told the assembly that “someone in my position would be able to tell you that this was an act of disrespect. Apart from my identity as member of the NU community, this act targets my identity as a Palestinian and an activist.” Several amendments were introduced to the original clause, but eventually the resolution passed with the clause taken out entirely.
The sustainability committee introduced a resolution as well, asking ASG to phase out its flyering on campus grounds. The committee stated that if ASG stopped flyering to promote its events, this could serve as a “pilot” program encouraging other campus groups to follow. The committee also indicated that they might recommend banning all campus groups from ground flyering in the future if an alternative method could be found that would not have as much of an environmental impact.
The senate also debated a resolution asking the University to reconsider its policy on drug use concerning the upcoming school-sponsored Ski-Trip to Colorado. The University’s current policy states that students off campus must follow the drug policies of the University’s campus in Illinois or may face sanctions if any incidents are reported to the school.
Speaker of the Senate, Noah Star, who sponsored the bill originally introduced by Daniel Hurwitz, co-president of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, said that the resolution neither encouraged nor discouraged students from smoking cannabis in Colorado if they were following the laws of the state, but represented the student body’s voice and opinion on the matter.
The Senate also passed a resolution addressing the low representation of low-income students in Northwestern’s student body. The resolution was written by Austin Romero, vice president for Diversity and Inclusion; Amanda Walsh, president of Northwestern Quest Scholars Network; and Isaac Rappoport of the Greek Caucus Whip. The goal of the resolution was to highlight the fact that Northwestern is less accessible to low-income students than peer institutions such as Duke and the University of Pennsylvania.
Another resolution called for the “administration to create a goal of having 20 percent or greater number of undergraduate students on Pell Grants by the year 2020, while keeping admissions need-blind.”
It highlighted several steps the school could take to ease financial burdens for students, such as creating a “pre-orientation program for low-income and first generation students” as well as providing course packets and reading materials online or through the library.
The Senate also voted and passed a resolution asking Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine to step up its response to the Ebola crisis in West Africa.
Additionally, the senate approved B-status funding for clubs on campus this week and will approve A-status funding next week.