The president of Loyola University of Chicago's United Student Government Association (USGA) vetoed a resolution calling on the university to divest from eight companies that some students allege do business with Israel.
"No matter what viewpoint you hold on the larger issue, this resolution caused harm among the student community," said Pedro Guerrero in a statement to USGA and the Loyola University Chicago community.
Guerrero vetoed the measure the day after USGA took a second vote in as many weeks on the measure.
The first vote, taken March 18, passed 26 to 0 with two abstentions. The second vote, on March 25, narrowly passed 12 to 10 with nine abstentions. USGA senators will have the opportunity to override Guerrero's veto, provided they muster a two-thirds majority.
Guerrero said that he took the decision because the "diversity of thought on campus was not taken into consideration."
Regardless of the veto, Loyola's administration had pledged not to adopt the resolution. "This is not the position of Loyola University Chicago and we will not adopt this proposal," the university stated.
Promulgated by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) as part of a national anti-Israel public relations effort, the resolution originally gained traction because of its introduction by nine students senators (out of a total of 35) who themselves are SJP members. In what many members of the university community saw as a breach of democratic principles, opponents of the measure had no opportunity to voice their views prior to the March 18 vote.
In response to those complaints, USGA invited four students and two alumni to make statements and field questions in opposition and in favor of the divestment resolution before the March 25 vote.
The testimony of students who oppose divestment significantly tipped the balance of the vote, despite SJP's long-term preparation for this student government maneuver.
"The point of this resolution is not to inspire a balanced, rational, or informative debate on the Israel/Palestine issue. No, the point is to frame this issue using the question, 'Israel is guilty. How should we punish it?'" said Talia Sobol, one of the student presenters who spoke in opposition to the resolution prior to the March 25 vote.
"Not only does the resolution clearly vilify and demonize Israel but it was poorly researched and includes a number of inconsistencies within the document," said Emily Briskman, director of the Israel Education Center of the Jewish United Fund, which provides support to students on campuses throughout Illinois, including at Loyola. "Loyola is not invested in all eight companies listed in the resolution, clearly demonstrating that the purpose of the resolution was not to promote human rights but simply to drag Israel's name through the mud," she added.
Another student presenter opposed to the resolution, Noga Barpal, acknowledged suffering on both sides and called on fair-minded people to "end this conflict not through divisive divestment measures but through negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians."
"I urge that students utilize this as an opportunity to unite; if the mission of this piece is to hold our university accountable to socially responsible investing, we must include a variety of situations in which this has not occurred," Guerrero said.
"I'm happy that we changed hearts and minds. I believe the veto demonstrates the complexity of this issue," Sobol said.
STATEMENT BY HILLEL METRO CHICAGO AND JUF'S ISRAEL EDUCATION CENTER
March 26, 2014
By vetoing the Israel divestment resolution USGA President Pedro Guerrero opts for principles over prejudice
We laud the courageous and considered decision of the President of Loyola University of Chicago's United Student Government Association (USGA) to veto the resolution calling on the university to divest from eight companies alleged to do business with Israel.
We applaud and reiterate President Guerrero's statement to USGA and the Loyola University Chicago community, in which he said, "No matter what viewpoint you hold on the larger issue, this resolution caused harm among the student community."
By affirming the need for USGA to give due consideration to "diversity of thought on campus," President Guerrero and other USGA Senators, as well as the administration of Loyola University Chicago, have reaffirmed the values-based and inclusive culture that have always made this Jesuit university a welcoming home for Jews and other minority students.
Students of good faith and goodwill must address the difficult and complex issues of our times in a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect, rather than demonization and delegitimization.
Talia Sobol '16
Loyola Metro Chicago Hillel/JUF Israel Intern
Director, JUF's Israel Education Center