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Friday, December 19, 2014

ASUNM divestment sparks student body debate

Transparency resolution fails to pass senate body

news@dailylobo.com

The issue of divestment dominated Wednesday night’s Associated Students of the University of New Mexico Senate meeting as Resolution 10S failed to pass the body despite amendments.

Advocates on both sides of the issue showed up in full force at the Student Union Building to voice their opinion on the resolution, resulting in what Vice President Brandon Meyers said was the largest turnout at a senate meeting he has witnessed during his vice presidency.

Resolution 10S calls for public transparency of all UNM investments and the formation of a student committee that would provide representation behind the investments. It also calls for UNM to stop investments in companies involved in human rights violations.

Despite several amendments, including the removal of any mention of Israel, specific multi-national corporations and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, as well as a call for a further resolution of the issue between Students for Justice in Palestine and Lobos for Israel, Resolution 10S failed to pass by a vote of 12-7 with one abstention.

ASUNM Sen. Jenna Hagengruber said the decision was an emotional one and that she just did not feel comfortable passing the resolution with such a division among students.

“We really appreciate everyone coming out tonight because honestly, this decision was really hard, and I kind of want to cry right now because I know a lot of people are unhappy,” Hagengruber said. “But I did not feel comfortable passing something that not everyone was happy with.”

Eight others universities in the United States have passed similar divestment resolutions.

Groups in favor of the Resolution said they are following the footsteps of past advocates of similar resolutions, who called for international divestment from Polaroid after the company’s role in the Apartheid system of South Africa had been uncovered.

Groups in opposition said the resolution was biased in that it singled out the state of Israel, and that it falls in line with the greater BDS movement against Israeli Apartheid.

Lobos for Israel President Sarah Abonyi said her faith in ASUNM was re-established by the senate’s decision.

“I am relieved, and my faith in ASUNM has been re-affirmed,” Abonyi said. “They made an incredibly hard and wise decision. They were able to see past the shroud over the resolution and see that it was part of a larger movement. They encouraged dialogue that has been needed for so long.”

On the other hand, Danya Mustafa, co-chairman of the Students for Justice in Palestine, said that although her organization is disappointed in the resolution failing to pass, she said she believes this is just the start of students coming together and holding the University accountable.

But both sides agreed that human rights violations are a serious issue and that UNM should avoid investing in organizations known to have involvements in human rights violations.

Mustafa said she remains confident that a divestment resolution will pass the senate in the future because of a growing number of students who are aware of human rights issues in the country and around the world.

“Ultimately, I am very optimistic it will pass,” Mustafa said. “We have a growing number of students who care not only about what is happening globally, but also here at home, and these corporations are directly responsible for human rights violations across the globe. We have to take that stand as students and say we don’t want this happening at our university.”

Mustafa said she looks forward to working with Lobos for Israel and ASUNM in order to draft a joint resolution to solve the issue of divestment at UNM.

“I actually have Sarah Abonyi’s phone number, so I am definitely going to give her a call and say, ‘Listen, let’s meet and make this resolution a joint resolution.’” she said. “And I am excited to make that happen.”

Abonyi said she believes the two sides can move forward and work together to pass a resolution.

“It is ground-breaking stuff that doesn’t usually happen on campus,’” Abonyi said. “I am proud to be a part of a campus that can foster such cooperative, diverse dialogue, and I think we will move forward together to draft a comprehensive resolution.”