Finance: The Committee is accepting applications for at-large members for the committee. That is open. Ramy sent out an email asking constituents to apply.
President: City Committee met and Lindsay is looking for a good week in April. I am working on the VSA Endowment. We are meetgin next sunday at 5 pm. I met with a lot of Trustees and they trhought Vassar was in crisis. I told them that they should listen to students on the ground not outside voices.
Operations: We have been working on reviewing the BDS Ammendment. We also recieved an Ammendment from KJ street U. We will be discussing those later.
7:12// Constituent Concerns
THs: What was your conversation with the Trustees about Titl IX? Did they discuss the Boilerplate articles?
President: Not explicityl. One trustee talked about the difference between legal and college defintions and how we need to be careful.
Ops: Some trustess are on board and are interested in changing educational programs here at Vassar in order to react people not to rape.
Cushing: The window that is above our fire exit fell off. This is extremely dangerous. I emailed Chris Roelke and Mariam Begemann. I asked them to renovate us. Chris Roelke said that he had forwarded the request to the VP for Finacne. I was writing about not just a window but a larger structural issue. I am concerned about my residents not having a safre place to live.
Ops: I was in a meeting with AAVC. We recieved a message aout changes. Te repair request form is going away and instead we are going to have a phone number so you can call a real person.
SoCos: Talking about Master Planning, I was wondering if in your conversation, my impression is that the priority is cshfitng to the Deece and the College Center and away from residential spaces.
President: I wouldn’t say that they are shifting away because they have never thought of res spaces and otehr spaces as in the same space. You can renovate both at the same time. I don’t think they are ignoring it per se.
SoCos: I’m on the Res Life task force and there is this huge focus on that. One link to this conversation is that there is this difference between the ROC and students. An issue will be forwarded to the ROC and then moved the B and G. This is in passing because I have brought up earlier in the year because hopefully the College will realize that we are repeating ourselves.
SoCos: I know there was a conversation about the Mug. I know that last night there was a conversation. What is the current policy? There is no longer an 11 pm closure.
Activities: Last I heard is that they’ve lifted the 11 pm closing through Spring Break. They are working to lift that after Spring Break as well.
SoCos: Is someone standing outside watching the door?
Activities: I don’t know the specifics. I have been locked out of my email.
SoCos: This decision seems thrown on us.
Raymond: What do we do if students arrive in Poughkeepsie at odd hours?
Ops: We’ve been talking about Off-campus transportation all year. We are working on it. We are thinking about it and Administration are aware that this is a problem. We will keep you updated.
7:21// Resolution Discussion
Ops: That sound is the heating. So we have the rules for the discussion. If you agree with something knock. Do not repeat what someone else has said. You may speak twice on any given topic for two minutes maximum. We have a timer. Stick to the topic. Hold up the number of topic you are interested. At-large members can speak any time but they do not go at the top of the list.
President: Make eye contact with Lindsay and she will add you.
Ops: For tonight’s discussion we have eliminated Direct Response in the interest of time.
At-large: Can we all speak louder?
At-Large: The demands of the BDS movement are three-fold. 1. The descendents of refugees be offered the right to return to their homeland. 2. Decolonizatio
This movement was started by Palestinian Civil Society. What is Civil Society? According to two most-recent polls 80-85% of the Palestinian population are in support of the BDS movement. BDS does ot in this resolution or in the greater movement does not target Israeli NGOs. BDS does not target all Zionist organizations. This resolution will not defund Challah for Hunger, will not defune the Vassar Jewish Union and will not defund Jstreet. This resolution in no way obliges Vassar to divest. The VSA is powerful but it is not that powerrful. I would like to read aloud a note on the academic obycott. It is in the resolution. THE DBS movement only targets academic instituions. We support boycotting and divesting from those instutions because those insttituons are institutionaly racist. Though they may host individuals that we would allow to come here. BDS does not take a stance on the one state or two-state issue. We are responding to a call. We are not telling Palestinians how to direct their own liberation.
We do consider this a situaition of Apartheid and whether not you agree with that, there has been a lot of talk about the complexity of this issue there is a binary. One country is occupied and one is an occupier. One country is the oprresor and one is the opperssed. We do not think that using this binary is overly reductive. We are willing to debate how to rectify conlonislaism. We are not willing to debate whether or not colonialism should end. The situation in which that state of Israel was born was a moment in which Jewish people faced real oppression and still face today. To solve one peopel’s oppression by oppressing another ia unacceptable. That does not justify the apratheid state that exists in Palestine.
I do not deny that this conversation is complex and idffiuclt for every individual that is involved. The difficult and tehe uncomfortability does not mean we can abandon this. We must continue to have this conversation. It is an unethical and immoral position to say that we will abandonw htis conversation because of our feelings about this issue. This isn’t a single issue conversation. To disrupt the colonial narrative here is to disuprt all colonial narratives everywhere.
We see it as until the VSA endoreses this movement and the school divests, we see the school as complicit in the situaiton in Palestine. We are really able to change the conversation around this isue. Ten yearts ago, people were debating whether or not Paleistinans exitst. In that way, this has been an incredibly effective movement. Our work does not start and end here. We have to make sure that this is a conversation that goes far beyond here.
Obviously this cojflict is terrible. That behooves us to do something. As long as you are interested in how to dismanlte colonialism, we are interested in whatever edits you feel are important. Everyone’s voices should be considered but we should not let our politics be driven by concern for the well-being of the oppressor.
If anything, I think what we have to understand is that in the context of fighting for people’s liberation we have to be in conversation with the liberated.
President: Knock if you agree but don’t knock too loud. Remember that you have two minutes to speak. We are going to have a Q and A.
SoCo: Can a proxy appoint another proxy?
7:39// Q + A
Abby: My question is about Zionst organizations. You say it does not target them but doesn’t it include organizations that identify as Zionist. Does bDS include them?
At-Large: No, it does not include.
JD: Point of clarification: I know you said BDS doesn’t target all people who identify as Zionist. From a journalist’s stand point, how can we beleive that when your organization has tried to defun all orgs with that description?
At-Large: BDS hasn’t set a Zionist, Anti-Zionist status. Neither SJP nor JVP has come forward to defund any orgs. This is a question to be had around our funding.
Also the justification for denying fudnig based on Zionism was related specifically to the VSA’s charter as an anti-racist organization. We want to be clear that this is not taking a stance on these issues.
THs: We all act in accordance with our organizations. So many issues that I have aobut this is that the capacity of indidivdual members and not be ocreected is because of membership within certain organizations. I’m confused that you do not have a stance on Zionism.
At-Large: We are keeping that language outside of our BDS resolution.
THs: But that is politics. We can’t pretend that what isn’t on paper doesn’t exist. If you want to say Zionism is racism, own it.
SJP: I think that there actually is a diversity of opinion in SJP as in all orgs. It is important to focus on what is in the resolution itself.
President: Just a reminder that this is a Q and A.
Jstreet U: It does say in the resolution that Zionism is part of the boycott.
President: I don’t think that that is part of the resolution we are voting on today.
Sarah: When you say ‘all-colonized lands and historic Palestine cna you define what that means?
SJP: We would like to decolonize the planet. Decolonizing Palestine means allowing for Jewish and non-Jewish people to interact without oppression.
Ferry: Point of clarification- Am I asking as Ferry?
FerrY: What version of the resolution is that?
Jstreet U: The podium version.
SJP: You have to differentiate the VSA’s funds and the schools’ funds. There is a difference there. This is not related but this is a conversation that the Finance Committee is having. BDS would not prevent a Zionist speaker from coming here as long as they were not representing an institution. If Hamas and Fatah has an international system of support than we would boycott that.
Matt: Do you have any estimate as to how big of a difference will this make in Finances for the VSA?
SJP: I can’t speak to how people will affect their money. The point that SJP has made is that there is an importance of the Ideological component of the struggle.
2018: As we go into the real discussion that I can see that this conversation can get verbally bloody. Just remember that we are all human beings and people have their opinions for reasons that are valid for themselves.
2019: Going into the general discussion, if you are using a term that not everyone knows, could you please define it?
At-large: Classrooms aren’t safe spaces in itself. Whatever you say be prepared to be attacked.
Henry: How would the companies included in the resolution of the hundreds of companies operating within Israeli boraders, why were these 11 chosen while others left off? Why were others not included?
SJP: If we were to boycott evrty company that operates in the settlements, part of the message would be lost. We focus on what are the most advantageous situations where we can start to affect change? It would do us no service if we tried to target all of the companies. There is solidarities here relating to the organizations that are involved in Palestine and also involved in the US.
7:58 // Discussion
PResdient: We have an hour for this discussion.
Matt: My problem with the BDS resolution at Vassar is that it is founded at the complete disregard for the work that Jstreet U does on campus. The principles that have been used as arguments us at Jstreet U are being used in the here. We are doing real work and are trying to support organziations doing work in Israel and Palestine. It is really easy to come up here and say this won’t do this but
Jesse: I’d like to speak about something in the Disabilitty Community. The person who is considered the father of the BDS movement. SJP has not invited anyone from Palestine. The only Palestinian person who came to campus spome against this resolution. What I saw that the president of the Palestinain Authority has said that this would hurt the economy and hurt chances for peace.
Caitlin: I think a common arguemnt against BDS is that this is symbolic and doesn’t do real work. BDS is symbolic and it symbolizes that there is something wrong. I think BDS leverages real economic and political power. It has real-life implications. The endorsement of BDS does not prohibit us in engaging in additional forms of solidarity. Looking back against sanctions against South Africa, they were avle to give freedom fighters power at the neogitating table that they didn’t have before.
Andrew: Regardless of whether or not BDS is passed, people will continue to oppose these speakers. Regardin grhe principels that underly preventing speakers form speaking was antiracism. Those same principles are in the resolution. The other main thing that I want to address is this question abotu real work. 80-85% of Palestinians are in support in some sort of boycott.
THs: I have lots to say on this. I want to thank Caitlin for acknowledging the symbolism. This is symbolic and that is not a bad thing. I don’t beleive it. I don’t beleive the solidarity. The more I talk to Vassar students, the less I buy into it. I would love to have a map on the screen. We are talking about an area and people. I’m going to read something about why I don’t beleive that BDS can work. BDS fails to prevsent a sustainable plan for peace. Peace and Justice are not immediates of a Palestinian state. Who is actually ogign to cover this? How are we actually holindg people accountable. No one wants to talk about it? I don’t see the day after tomorrow people being automically saf.e I can’t buy into the justice and peace. I just don’t byt into the movement at all.
Wesley: I don’t understand what our impact in this case….there is support for boycotting Israel. When you talk about boycotting companies, it is much lower. We have to look at the contextual operations of the resolution. What point is the possible effect of the BDS resolutions?
Abby: I want to talk about what passing the BDS resolution will do for the future of Jewish life at Vassar. Mainstream Judaism is way further to the right than what you see at Vassar. My parents would not want me to come here if BDS were to pass. Jewish students are not given the chance to come here. I think it will severely hurt Jewish life at Vassar. I believe in that 100%. It will get so into the media. I know that the media has gotten it wrong. You are also forcing orgs to support BDS. I have to support BDS. We are saying anyone is welcome in our doors at VJU. I want to make it clear I am speaking as an individual.
Karam: I just want to talk about the Bassem Eid point. The irony in that point is the fact that no Palestinians born in Palestine have not been brought because they were forced to leave Palestine. I have dozens of friends who are Palestinian who were not born in Palestine. I have lived in the Middle East my whole life.
Paul: I would like to respond to a lot of people whoi have made claims that if BDS is effective it doesn’t make an guarantees about the future. That is true. But compromise does not mean that people should have to sacrifice their human rights because we are uneasy with this political situation.
At-large: If you add up the numbers it comes out to well over 80% of Palestinians who are in support of the boycott. I was not making up numbers. I was keeping it at an underestimate.
Yasmine: First off, I just want to say that a lot of the reason that Palestinains doen’t come here is that they are paperless. There actually are Palestinians on campus. You wouldn’t know thought becuase people don’t tell people becuase of Campus CLimate. I just want to address issues of people feeling comfortable coming to Vassar. First of all, I’m Arab and I was told by everyone I know that I hsouldn’t come here. Arab communities have made lists of colleges that are friendly to Arab students. One of the colleges that are on the unfriendly list is Vassar. There are only five Arab students on campus.
ethan: I think we should talk about what BDS will do if it passes. Regarding the Jewish people who will not send their students here, that would be the fault of the parents. The question tabout BDS offering a peace process. That is true. We do not think that it is our job as an org at Vassar to tell ISrael and Palesitne how to draw their map. Lastly, it was stated that if this passes, it will force al orgs to support BDS. It would prohibit orgs form buying form companies that kill.
Jesse: Let’s talk about what BDS will do and what BDS has done. If you look at the UC schools, following BDS there were sharp rises of anti-semetic behavior. These schools which pass BDS tend to have a large rise in anti-semitic incidents. Why are we bieing dimissive to the Palestinian voice that we brought to Vassar.
Henry: SJP and JVP have brought several Palestinian voices. I want to speka in favor of BDS. My understanding in helping to co-author the document. I was conerced to hear just now that were the VSA to adopt the BDS resolution, Jewish students would not come to Vassar. As a Jewish student and co-author of the resolution I want to speak in favor of the resolution. I know that there is a growing number of Jewish people at Vassar and in the US who know that what is happening is Israel is Apartheid. Jewish Voices for Peace is one of the largest groups representing these Jeish people. Saying that this resolution would rpevent Jeiwsh students from coming to Vassar is an underestimation and is wrong.
Ferry: I do adamnatly disagree with you on the point that it isn’t going to hurt the Jewish population at Vassar. There have been multiple incidences done by SJP that were anti-semitic. Vassar is listed as #6 in terms of anti-semitism as Vassar. Becuase of how divisive this campus has been, I have considered leaving. This has really affected me emotionally. Although many Jews might disagree iwth my statement, it does really affect all communinties here.
THs: Vassar is on a lot of shit lists. The main thing that I’m thinking about is that the resolution has not done good things for Vassar. When we look at the Middle East the fact that we are not taking any considerastion about where money is coming from. The part that bothered me the most is that BDs propoganda is too much. We are trying to gain votes. This isn’t what this is about. We need to be doing work. BDS doesn’t do that. It has potential but I haven’t seen that potential utilized. One other point that is always lacking is that BDS doesn’t address anti-semitism. This is bigger than this. If we want to talk about the Palestinain refugees we also have to talk about the Jewish refugees.
At-large: I want to address one thing that Maya borught up. We want to talk about bringing Palestinians and Israelis living together. I think it is important to talk about that but I also think it is important recognize that that cannot happen until there is peace and justice. This resolution makes a strong statement and positions us against that ivolence and against that oppression. We can’t live together in the future until we take a step. This is a step.
Ethan: I’m glad that you brought up the Jewish refugees from the Middle East. The Jewish refugees from the Middle East, although they underwnt severe challenges, they were still able to find homes and success somewhere. Palestinain refugees have to live in refugee camps. One of the core demands of the BDS movement is that the walls that seperate Jews and non-Jews in te West Bank is dismantled.
Hailey: I just want to think about how we are understanding our positionality at Vassar. I am also a Jewish studento n campus and I also agree that there is anti-semitism. My best friend who is not white got direct threats through his email on his personghood for stadnig up against systems of oppression. I don’t know what that is like but I know that I get the time of day he doesn’t. I think we really need to think about what we can do with our positionality at Vassar. If you look at Mizzou, they were successful because they hit an economic pressure pooint. That is what BDS will allow us to do.
Noah: What BDS is doing is taking an appr What is going on right now in terms of the diplomatic processes instead of BDS does not work.
Lydia: I want to respond to what people have said in that there are also Israeli students on campus who don’t mention that they are Israeli because of campus climate. In terms of BDS, we should hold ourselves to a higher standard. We have said that we are implementing BDS to make a stand. We can find a better symbolic measure. We should end the occupation but we shouldn’t do it in a way that hurts other members of out community.
Lital: I want to speak about Jews who were exiled during the creation of the Arab state. The reason those refugees were able to rebuild was because of Israel.
Paul: You just mentioned that BDS pits Arabs and Jews against each other. There is no org on campus that has ore collaboration between Jewish and Arab students than SJP.
Caitlin: I think that when we talk about BDS hurting people and other forms of activism that hurt people. We should think about how power works. Once you have it, you don’t want to take it away. It is going to hurt when someone tries to take that power away. White privilege is going to hurt to lose if it happens one day. A lot of the activsm is going to hurt these ideas that we have been raised with. But that doens’t mean that those ideas are healthy things to beleive in. We should think aobut concrete realities and material realities.
Omri: I still feel that there is no mention of the third side of this argument relating to Hamas and Fatah. I think it is very prominant in Gaza over the West Bank because all ISraeli forces withdrew from Gaza in 1994. What would happen should Israel forces withdraw from the West Bank? Nobody is mentioning this entire group of people that have a huge impact on the Palestinians that live there.
Lydia: I want to respond to what Caitlin is saying. Dimantling strucutrla power is supposed to hurt. There is a difference between actions being purposely violent and side effects of other work. I don’t think you can boil this down to race.
Matt: We are having two very different conversations about the logistics of Israel-Palestine. That is all way above our heads. We are also having a discussion about how BDS will affect students at Vassar. I don’t know how the campus is going to make a vote about this. YTou can make htis decision based on both discussions. Which discussions do you have a say in?
Karam: If this was following the events that happen in Mizzou about Black Lives Matter, if I were to get up here and claim All Lives Matter that wouldn’t be fine. There are specific people who are being oppressed more. I don’t see why it is fine to say “all lives matter” with this issue when there is one group that is being more oppressed. There is violence on both ends but BDS’s aim is to even out the dispraportionality. One end is really receiving a lot more oppression and violence than the other.
Town Students: I’m going to pose these questions. One of the major things for me is that I don’t feel about deciding the future for Vassar students. I think that we need to decide how long the BDS movement will alst. I don’t know if I would want other students to vote on it in the future. The way I see BDS is that it is an indirect support system for Palestinian refugess. I’m worried about indirect support. This smells symbolic. Will companies actually react to these changes. I’m concerned about that. Who is really going to suffer the consequences? I’m not going to have to suffer the consequences. I’m not willing to decide on someone else’s sacrifice.
Noah: I see Hamas as a violent organization that was elected by a people out of desperation. If we want to end groups like Hamas and Fatah and the IDF, we need to address the colonization in Israel. The VSA has decided to be a political organization. If what the best decision politically is not the best decision for Vassar, than there is something wrong with Vassar. If we see it as important it is our respnsiblity to pass it regardless of how other people will respond to it.
Abby: I’ve been coming to VSA meetings since I was a freshman and the VSA loves precedent. I want to point out that my definition of zionism is defined as the right for a Jewish state to exist. What this resolution says is a call to boycott Zionism. This resolution sounds like you are boycotting Israel until Israel oesn’t exist.
Josh: I think most peoples’ points have ignored the fact that Jews of Color exist and Israelis of Color exist. I am also uncomfortable about this discussion of who was more or less oppressed.
Sam: We should interogate the mechanis and the logic of how we would be enforcing the Jewish quality of the state. How cna you maintain the state of Jewishness without policing bodies?
Ferry: Isralei is about a Jewish homeland. 6 million jews were killed during the Holocaust. Im saying I know exactly the form that a Jewish state should exist in but I do beleive that this state should exist. That is why I am a Zionist.
Henry: Some of these claims are becoming ahistorical. I’m concered with that. The state of Israel which calls itself a Jewish state. There is not now and there has never been a Jewish concensus about the founding of a Jewish state. I just want to point to that as historical. I also want to point to Jewish oppression for thousands of years. That claim suspends anti-semetism above history. That claims suggests that this people have been oppressed forever and will be oppressed forever. There is a lot of complexity to that history and I encourage people to go read about it.
Hailey: I just want to touch on colonislaism. Israel wasn’t created because the world wanted to be nicer to JEwish people. We should think about how Israel plays a major role geopolitically. ISrael is being used strategically by a bunch of other imperial powers and israel is also an imperial power. We should also be mindful that we need to be talking about the BDS resolution. Having a conversation about the ISrael-Palestine conflict is a lot bigger.
Yasmine: Bringing it back to BDS, I think what Paul said is really powerful in that SJP is one of the only spaces in which Arab and Jewish students have come together in an anti-racist cause. I think BDS definitely would say that BDS would improve campus climate. There are a lot of ties to zionism and Islamaphobia. In Vassar campus and campuses across the country we tend to think that people won’t want to come to our school. Its important to consider but I don’t htink we should be focussing on that. In terms of population I think it is prettyy evident where the power lies vurrently.
Jason: The idea that Israel is a European-Jewish state is a fallcy. The demographics are still changing in Israel. It is not soley or even mostly a Eurporan Jewish homeland. At University of Washington they had to hire a fullt-ime therapist after Jewish students felt so terrorized. We can’t make this conversation soley about BDS. The problem we get caught in is that we need a broader conversaiton. We should be having these conversations more often when it isn’t just about a binary decision.
Henry: I’d like to speak to Bailey’s point on Israel’s position as a colonial pawn. Many of these conservative governments do not recognize Israeli right to exist. You can’t delegitimize an entire movement because of individuals who jump on the bandwagon for their own reasons. You can’t ignore these factors when dealing with these issues. There are incidents on either side where poeple are supproting for racial bias.
Derek: Someone mentioned something that was conflating BDS decisions to Black Lives Matter. That dichotomoy doesn’t translate to the argument we have here. The fact that people is presenting this dichotomy. I don’t want to be racist or anti-semetic. The BDS resolution is not addressing this very complex issue that we are being faced with. I don’t want to trade oppression for oppression on either side. I don’t want to side with BDS because I feel like there is a better answer and we just aren’t there yet. I don’t want to join a resolution that is the least that we can do. I want to sing on the a resoltuioin that is the most that we can do.
Alexia: This is a call from Palestinian Civil Society. This is the call that we have recieved from them. Knowing that it is offensive to say that there has to be in solidarity with them. The Palestinian society are aksing for this. We can start here and if we need to edit the reosluiton to say that we oppose the occupation, let’s do that. This is about Human Rights. The things in this resolution come directly from the UN and International Law. Moving forward, this is not a conversation about Israel’s right to exist. They need to be in line with international law. This is about human rights violations. We are challenging colonial systems at large. We arne’t just focusing on Israel. We have endorsements from a lot of organizations.
PResidnet: We are at time. Would anyone like to extend the conversation time-sie?
Noyes: I move to a five-minute break.
9:02// 5 Minute Break
9:07// Anti-Occupation Resolution with Jstreeet
Josh: We are here to present the other resolutio which was wirtten by Jstreet U Exec. We are calling it the Anti-Occupation Resolution. Clearly this is very contentious. SOmething that really excites me is that the VSA could really publicly be anti-occupation. That is the main point of the resolution. The main thing that going through this process is realizing there is a lack of education on campus and a lack of knowledge about the conflict. What we posit is that there should be a committee that is in the VSa and is dierectly responsible.
Matt: This is a great way to take a step forward and not tear apart cmapus.
Josh: The way that the BDS resoltion was presented. There is a yes/no conituum. This resolution is not responding to the BDS movement. It just says “Occupation Sucks, orgs should have autonomy to decide what they do”.
Caitlin: I’m just wondering how this is different given the symbolic arguemtn.
Matt: We don’t oppose BDS because it is symbolic.
Josh: In my mind this isn’t sumbolic. I think much more peiple on campus hsould be knowledgeable about the Isarel-Palestine conflict.
Jesse: How are you defining occupation?
Matt: We look at occupation as the occupation of the West Bank.
Noah: I’m wondering how you can say that this is not a yes or a no on BDS when six of the points are cirticizing the movement.
Josh: No, they are criticizing the resolution not the movement.
2019: This is a point of inquiry for future reference. So these two resolution cannot coexist becuaseo the language.
Ops: Yes, they are mutually exlcusive.
2019: So we can’t endorse one without rejecting the other one.
Henry K: The first and second statements seem to be in conflict.
At-Large: In our minds, the issue is the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. This will enable to student body to focus its work on resolving this issue in many different ways.
Matt: It says that the VSA endorses anti-occupation acitvisti but doens’t endorse a particular method.
Henry: Would you clarify in what way the formation of an educational panel in the VSA on the Israel-Plaestine conflict would be mutually eclusive with BDS? What educational material would be included? Mpas are a really intersting point. Which maps? I’d also like to ask. With the adoption of this panel, this would be in addtion to Vassar students using already available resources. I wonder the type of education that would potnetially be offered by the VSA.
Josh: The mutual exlcusive comes in the first part of the “LEt it be Resolved…”s. I think in large part the idea of this action committee would be up to the committee. I think what is important is that it would have members from a lot of different spaces and hopefully they would be able to get to some unanimous thing.
Ethan: I’m wondering about your second-to-last clause. I know that Jstreet as a national organization does not think that Apartheid laws should be repealed. Does you chapter differ at all?
Matt: Our naitonal organization supported them. We do agree that there is institutional racism against Palestinians.
ethan: But does this resolution say anything about repealing thsoe laws for the VSA?
Alexia: How would the BDS resolution inhibit any of your anti-occupation work? Can you explain the binary?
Matt: You have set up the conversation as a binary that says to be anti-bds is to be anti-palestinian. BDS sets this massive precedent. The story is unclear. The positions are unclear. Unless you are willing to put in that resolution not condemming Zionism.
Andrew: Does this resolution allow for this committee to consider questions beyond the opposition? Does Jstreet have a position on the question of the right of return? Right of return means the right of palestinian refugees who were expelled to have the opportunity to return and have reparations.
Matt: The committee is very much a starting point. The point is that that is a joint committee involving many different groups. As for right of return, I don’t know of Jstreet’s national concern but i don’t see how it is relevant here.
Jesse: Why do we need a specific committee for this issue? Would they be denied a seat at such a committee?
Lital: Jstreet is not right-wing. If there were a right-wing group for this issue on campus, they would be invited to the committee. There are students who care a lot about this issue. It makes sense because people want this committee.
President: Is your intent for the VSA to remain neutral on teh question of BDS or to oppose it.
Josh: Neutral. The resolution is intended to state that orgs should be able to do it for themselves.
President: It doesn’t say that right now but we can work to make that clear.
THs: If we can decide about the necessity of reparations and return, I can get behind that. I’m always very stuck about what we mean in these discussions about right of return because there is such a multiplicity of views on what we mean when we say right of return. I want to be clear that we are saying that his will oppose the occupation. Right of return would be a policy decision. Who would facilitate this? If we are talking about reparations, then that is a conversation that I wasn’t aware that we were having. That space of this discussion leaves us all feeling very confused.
President: We are at time for the questions section. We will take the questions on the list but no more.
Paul: Why is your hunch that this precedent is good enough for the VSA?
Josh: I spent a lot of time looking at the BDS website. You keep saying it doesn’t posit anti-Zionism. But in the language it uses it equates Zionism with racism.
Noah: How powerful is it for the VSA to condemn the occupation if it says nothing about Vassar making money by being invested in companies in the occupation. The other resolution is calling for the Board of Trustees to change their investments.
Andrew: How is neutrality any different from opposition to the BDS resolution? We can’t even pass both resolutions at the same time?
Josh: It is saying that we don’t think that your resolution works. Not that the movement works.
9:32// Anti-Occupation Activism Resolution
Cushing: I urge the sponsors like SJP and others to amend their resolutions to explicitly detail your views on zionism and racism. I appreciate the sentiment with this resolution but I am concerned with the committee is that the VSA would be prioritized this issue over others. I don’t think that creation of this committee will be setting a good precedent for the VSA.
Lydia: The VSA has prioritized this because this is what the dialogue is about on campus. This is what is on the table right now and it is what we as an org are focusing on.
Jesse: I am wondering about the effectiveness of this resolution. Is it necessary that this be a separate committee of the VSA. Why was this decision so important?
President: I just am wondering about this committee. I don’t believe that we will get people from three different orgs in this committee.
Andrew: The point that SJP, JVP and BDS is that being anti-occupation is not enough. Even without occupation, there would still be systems of power and oppression. To be simply anti-occupation is only a half-step.
THs: I agree with Andrew. I think its interesting to see how the BDS movement has appealed to so many groups on campus. In regards to the systemic nature of these issues, I would like to revise this so that it doesn’t mention just Israel. If we are just condemning Israel, we should condemn so much else too. Where does that solidarity go when the crisis is over? Congress was talking about South African Apartheid. Congress is not talking about BDS. Where is the solidarity going now with everything that is happening South Africa. If you’re gonna be there, be there.
Abby: I want to address why this issue presents this committee. Jstreet presented this resolution because this issue was already being discussed at Vassar. I don’t think we should be focussing on this issue. Even if this committee doesn’t actually happen, I see this as aspirational. On most campuses, SJP and JVP work together a lot. It is time to put aside differences as humans and differences as orgs.
Lathrop: How will the committee be facilitated? Do you want VSA members on it?
Matt: We wrote VSA Council members to involved as well.
Josh: Something that is really important is I have close friends on the boards on both SJP and JVP. I think a lot of time we forget who we are talking to. I think part of this committee would be to deconstruct that and to get people into the room as people.
Andrew: Two people have mentioned the fact about so many other issues. The point that I would make is that at the end of the day activists have limited time and energy to devote to causes that we see have the potential for winning. Now that there is an opportunity to affect actual change here, I am going to take that opportunity. Disrupting the colonial narrative in Israel means that we disrupt the colonial narrative not only across the world but also at Vassar.
Operations: I need to address confusion about unequal funding, the implication being that the VSA has spent more money for BDS programming. Some orgs have applied for more money through fund apps. We apply equal scrutiny to every fund app.
Noah: I agree with Andrew that the issue goes far beyond the Occupation. Even with the Occupation, this resolution doesn’t do enough. This resolution does not have any solvency. Maybe the BDS resolution is too symbolic because the VSA doesn’t have enough financial power. But this resolution is way way more symbolic. Let’s at least say something that is as powerful as we can.
Spencer: I don’t think this is a good reason to choose Jstreet’s resolution over BDS. If the VSA is to support either the Jstreet resolution of the BDS resolution, they are prescribing a set of politics on the students. We are presented for better or for worse by the decision the VSA makes. If we wanted to represent the personal views of every Vassar student, we wouldn’t have a representative body.
President: I wanted to clarify my earlier comments. Part of our restructuring included several committees include a lot of orgs. From an operational standpoint, when we are actually voting it will be a little complicated. Keep that in mind.
Jason: I think that the inter-org collaboration could happen. It has worked with me. I am to the right of Jstreet U but I collaborated with them. Collaboration can be done. My question is about posivitism? Where is the posivitism? It is never going to do anything if it can’t rally people. Vassar College has always been radical. There is nothing radical about a small liberal arts college signing a BDS bill. We should actually do something radical.
Ethan: In the 9th “where as” clause in the resolution, they cite BDS as decisive. With regards to the creation of a committee to discuss this, every year the Vassar Jewish Union come together to discuss this issue. Discussion can happen all the time but it isn’t helping the conflict. I think it is horrible that the word “colonialism” doesn’t appear in your document once.
Jesse: I would like to say that it is extremely sad that we are spending so much time on an issue that isn’t going to positively affect the lives a single one of our constituents. I challenge any person on campus to get around campus in a wheelchair. There are a lot of serious issues on this campus. That needs to be addressed. I don’t see who either of these resolution are helping. I just think we need to step back and ask “who are we actually helping among our constituents?”
Josh: I want to speak to a lot of criticism of the committee. We had a very long conversation about how the BDS resolution is purely symbolic. The reality is that activism takes work. We should be focusing on getting people on campus educated. That s what this resolution is trying to address.
Ferry: This is going to be beneficial to everyone. It is condemning the occupation. It is going to allow for individuals to decide to oppose or support BDS within their own orgs. It allows for new ideas on how to work to support ending the occupation.
Caitlin: America gives a huge amount of aid to Israel. BDS has the ability to change this. Israel is one of the biggest manufacturers of drones. Our mass incarceration crisis in the US is connected to them. There are multiple stakes that people have in this fight and it is unfair to question them. It takes a lot of grassroots activism before Congress talks about things. Anti south African Apartheid activism started in the 50s and the US didn’t vote on it until the 80s. We have lots of different stakes in the fight for BDS.
Cushing: Resolutions can be amended and withdrawn for future VSA Councils. If we pass one, the next senate can amend it?
Strong: I believe that we are putting too many VSA resources on this issue. This resolution makes me uncomfortable with individuals deciding how to pursue their own activism. It doesn’t seem neutral. The only way to let students decide on how they want their activism to work is if we let the BDS resolution to go to referendum.
Alexa: We can do more work for students on campus and also vote on these resolutions. The BDS movement is a political movement. This resolution is not part of anything bigger. The reason BDS works is because it is part of a bigger issue. If we want to add things to the BDS referendum about being anti-occupation and the committee that’s fine. This is about human rights. Do you support human rights or not?
Abby: VJU’s job is to help Jewish students on campus, it isn’t an activist group. I support this resolution because it doesn’t tell orgs what they can and can’t do. VSA’s ultimate job is to condemn human rights violations but it should let orgs do what they want.
THs: I agree with Alexia that she deserves a lot of credit. In regards to Ethan’s point about the UN, the UN sucks. I am not one to pander to the UN. This isn’t a new lens. We have been focussing on Jerusalem for centuries. BDS is not moving forward. The desire to start building solidarity with Israel is the problem.
Lathrop: I have a question. My question is towards the resolution. Throughout this whole conversation we haven’t focussed on the question about financial aid and how this could affect financial aid decisions. From what I heard is that the resolution threatens alumnae/i donations. Considering a resolution that causes fragility puts students here in a potentially dangerous situation. Also this could put pilot programs like the Posse Program at stake. There are serious ramifications for considering a resolution like BDS. Could you committee decide to move forward with BDS?
Josh: I don’t see why not. I don’t think they would reach that decision.
Matt: Alexia said something about BDS being a part of a bigger movement. This resolution is part of a bigger movement. Jstreet movement is not agreeing with most pro-Israeli movements. The committee is not to talk about feelings. The committee is an active step. it is not an end, it is a beginning. It is going to hopefully reduce the amount of space that his conversation is taking up on the Council floor right now.
Student Life: This is just to be clear. I’ve heard some sentiments about possibility wanting to send this to referendum. If that is something you want to consider, tonight is the night to do that. During Open Discussion.
2019: I think it is a dangerous argument to say voting one way would endanger students. We need to vote the way we feel on this.
Activities: In fact, Cappy has the power to veto any resolution that we pass. Cappy also didn’t know this. One is a more procedural question. I don’t see how we can vote on the BDS resolution once we have voted on the BDS resolution.
President: Cappy can veto things that change the financial state of the college. She can’t vote on the resolution, she can vote on the amendment.
Noah: Activism is so not about individual thing. If we just say that everyone can have their own opinion on this issue, that doesn’t go that far. This isn’t going to be an end-all be-all.
Ethan: We mentioned not being ahistorical. Many people say Israel-Palestine and Judaism and Islam have been in conflict for hundreds of years. Actually only since the 1800s when Zionism was invented. The fact that Canada has outlawed BDS and the fact that the Trustees are reminding you about veto power means that BDS is working and that people and groups in power are scared. I encourage you not to give in to the power that this institution has over you.
Student Life: Point of clarification– the trustees didn’t approach us with that information.
Lital- I don’t think there is any way that this resolution is suggesting that you don’t organize and be active on the issues that you care about. You should definitely be active on this issue. This resolution is just saying that the VSA as an organization should not support this particular BDS resolution.
Socos: There has been a lot of discussion about the content of this charter. It would be more helpful when we have a charter to look at. If I understand correctly our amendment is only on SJP and JVP’s documents and not on Jstreet’s resolution.
Cushing: clarifying question- Can we consider a motion to keep this resolution vote anonymous?
Student Life: Again, withholding the fac t that there is still a possibility that this could go directly to referendum I would encourage to also make this vote anonymous. Just for the fact of making it all less confusing.
Ops: I don’t think that this vote should be made anonymous. It doesn’t have the threat for peoples’ safety and future that the BDS resolution does.
2018: This decision was also about making sure they were voting on behalf of their constituents.
Emily: I understand why people want this to be anonymous. As someone who is voting for people who represent us, I think that transparency is really important. Taking the job of being on the VSA Council is more than just adding your name to a ballot. The rest of us don’t have a voice. For those of you do have a voice, there needs to be accountability.
Activities: Because we already voted to make the BDS vote anonymous, it logically follows to make this vote anonymous because the two resolutions oppose each other.
Maya: This is not supposed to be easy. We are supposed to get into hard conversations. This issue has impacted friendships. It has impacted mine. This is about learning. When it comes to this issue of accountability, I have had not a single constituent come up to me in support of a secret vote. No one has come up to me in support of a secret ballot. In regards to the secret ballot, this vote does not hold the same weight. You have to be aware that you’re going to put yourself in a position that is uncomfortable. We have to engage with people.
Jesse: Last week, I opposed a secret ballot. I know a lot of people who were disappointed with that decision. I oppose it this time as well but it would seem a little inconsistent if we are saying we don’t want people to know about the BDS resolution but we do want people to know about the Jstreet resolution.
Ferry: I don’t think this is going to affect anyone in the same manner. It is a negative vote. This one is just talking about condemnation about occupation. There is nothing negative about this resolution that this resolution will have.
10:26 // Vote on Anonymity for Jstreet U Resolution
4 in favor, 15 against, 4 abstentions, motion fails– no secret vote
2019: I wanted to speak to the larger bodies condemning BDS, I don’t think that because a country condemns BDS makes BDS ethical. To speak to the resolution, I think that it is unnecessary because the fact that the VSA will be anti-occupation is inherent. Also I think that it is odd that the resolution mentions BDS since it is possible that the resolution could be passed without the BDS.
10:30// Vote to have SoCos 4 minutes talk about Financial Aid
7 in favor, 14 against, 2 abstentions — no time extended
President: I move to split the amendment and the resolution.
Ferry: I object.
10:40// Vote to split the amendment and the resolution
12 in favor, 7 opposed, 4 abstentions– the amendment is divorced from the resolution
2019: Could you clarify the process of the secret ballot for me? I want to know how the secret ballot is going to take place to decide whether or not to send the vote to referendum.
Academics: I just wanted to tease out what I’m hearing. It seems a lot of people want the vote to either go to referendum in lieu of our decision or after our decision. We could change the vote to ‘in addition to’ instead of ‘in lieu of’.
10:46// Vote for Resolution to go to Referendum in lieu of the VSA vote
3 in favor, 17 opposed, 2 abstentions
10;47 Vote for Amendment to go to Referendum in lieu of the VSA vote
8 in favor, 13 opposed, 2 abstentions- motion fails
10:49// Meeting Adjourned