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Divestment resolution passes Ohio State student government on secret ballot

Motion fails to denounce BDS

Students leaders at Ohio State University were too embarrassed to attach their names to a vote late Wednesday on a watered-down divestment resolution.

The initial version of the resolution was a traditional boycott, divestment and sanctions effort against Israel, but the revised version excised all references to companies that do business with foreign governments.

The Lantern reports the resolution was approved by secret ballot – meaning the public won’t learn the identity of supporting and opposing senators – after a five-hour hearing:

The first round of voting cast by secret ballot resulted in a revote because more votes were cast than senators present. When asked, USG [the student government] offered no explanation for the discrepancy.

The resolution “calls for” the creation of an ad hoc committee within the University Senate “to investigate the ethical and moral implications of investments in” companies named in the resolution, which are involved in human rights violations both within the U.S. and abroad.”

The “abroad” part was made vague in the final resolution, not naming any specific country.

The approved resolution tasks the ad hoc committee “find suitable investments in companies” that it deems “socially responsible,” and says its own passage “shall embody OSU’s commitment to social justice and equality for all people, and affirms that no people are exempt from this commitment.”

The original version named “Caterpillar, Raytheon, and Lockheed Martin” as companies complicit in human rights abuses. All have been named in other BDS resolutions. They were removed from the approved version.

Redline version of BDS resolution approved by Ohio State student government by The College Fix on Scribd

Caterpillar was cited in the original for “providing the tools and equipment routinely used in the demolition of” Palestinian areas, and Raytheon and Lockheed Martin were said to “supply the government of Saudi Arabia with arms and weapons for their brutal war in Yemen.”

Though it was mentioned in the approved version for doing business with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the prison industry, HP Enterprise’s business with the Israeli military was excised.

The final resolution still has stray references to international abuses by targeted companies, but it focuses on domestic issues, namely those companies that profit from detention centers and private prisons.

It portrays these institutions as functionally racist and anti-immigrant, and names the Corrections Corporation of America, CoreCivic and GEO Group as well as HP Enterprise.

In another section that alludes to the excised portions about foreign cooperation, the resolution says investment in these companies “particularly” harms “minority students” at OSU “who come from, or have family in regions which have experienced military occupation, systematic discrimination, death, injury, and other forms of human rights violations.”

President Michael Drake’s “2020 Vision” document, which pledges the university to become “a national model of inclusiveness and diversity,” is undercut by these investments, according to the resolution.

Student body had already rejected divestment

The College Conservative published a statement by one of the opposing senators, Nick Davis, who said the resolution “has clear anti-Semitic intent and now Jewish students on our campus face marginalization and discrimination”:

We as students have no right to say how the university spends its endowment until we are contributing. I also find it shameful that the USG leadership decided to hold a secret ballot to vote. Our constituents, who by the way have voted against this kind of legislation as a ballot initiative last spring, deserve better than this.

Davis told The Lantern that the student government showed it was not an “actual government” by using a secret ballot. Here’s how one student leader defended the decision:

According to USG’s standing rules, if a senator motions for this form of vote, the method must be “recognized and carried out by the presiding officer.” So, once a senator requests a stringent method, Sophie Chang, the vice president, must carry out the request.

Debate on the original resolution suggested it was “on track to fail” until a senator proposed removing all portions that mention “international affairs,” after which the revised resolution “passed easily,” according to The Lantern. Most students who spoke at the hearing opposed the resolution, with “many citing its anti-Semitic undertones.”

Tempers were high after the vote: The Lantern says opposing senator Davis and another student, Anthony Long, “began a verbal argument threatening to fight each other on their way out of the Ohio Union,” though Davis “disputes this occurred.”

Is it BDS or not?

The student government itself declined to denounce the BDS movement when given the opportunity, according to The Lantern:

“The sponsors state that this resolution is not BDS, then why are you using organizations, as a source, that support BDS?” [student Ben] Kanas asked, referencing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which says its goal is to end what it believes is Israel’s violation of international law.

Before going into final voting for the resolution, Ezequiel Herrera, a third-year in communication and psychology, proposed an amendment to the resolution that said, “USG condemns BDS and all that it stands for.”

The motion failed.

According to Davis, the student government had not previously voted by secret ballot this academic year.

Pro-Israel campus advocacy group StandWithUs thanked resolution opponents, including Buckeyes for Israel and OSU Hillel, for “preventing anti-Israel language” from staying in the resolution:

“The global boycott movement seeks to eliminate Israel and deny Jews the right to self-determination in their ancestral homeland. By amending the resolution, students ensured that they would not be exploited to promote this campaign of hate,” said Ben Brownstein, the Mid-Atlantic Campus Director at StandWithUs.

The redline version of the resolution was obtained from The College Conservative. When The College Fix opened the resolution in its native Google Docs format Friday afternoon, the platform warned that the file was scheduled to be deleted.

Read the redline version, Lantern articleCollege Conservative post and StandWithUs statement.

MORE: OSU student body narrowly votes against BDS

IMAGE: Lolostock/Shutterstock

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