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UMich shuts down dueling student votes to either condemn Israel or seek peace


University of Michigan leaders canceled voting on two dueling student petitions, one of which called on administrators to condemn Israel as committing “genocide” and another urging them to promote “grace and empathy” on campus amid the Israel-Hamas war and tensions on campus.

The decision came as the Ann Arbor campus remains rife with tension, with pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel students pitted against each other and numerous protests and ongoing wars of words.

Campus leaders initially allowed the two ballot proposals to be weighed by the student body as part of its midterm elections, but on Thursday abruptly shut down voting on the two measures, citing a breach in election security.

An issue was an email sent to all undergrads during the voting period that urged them to vote in favor of the resolution to condemn Israel and stand in “opposition to mass violence and systems of apartheid” — and to vote against the other resolution to fight “systems of violent oppression,” according to a copy of the email obtained by The College Fix.

The campuswide email was penned by the TAHRIR Coalition, a group of about 60 student organizations, which used proper procedures to get their memo sent. While the letter was approved by a university staffer, “the content of the email violated U-M policy and proper procedures were not followed,” campus spokesperson Kim Broekhuizen told the Michigan Daily.

Reached for comment, the university’s media relations department referred The College Fix to its Dec. 1 posted statement on the matter.

“This action became necessary after learning that an unauthorized email was sent to the entire undergraduate student body on the Ann Arbor campus at the request of a graduate student. The email was an inappropriate use of the university’s email system in violation of Standard Practice Guide 601.07. The email irreparably tainted the voting process on the two resolutions,” it stated.

In announcing the voting shut down, the university’s general counsel Timothy Lynch stated the student government did nothing to “address this threat to the integrity of the election results.”

“But the extraordinary, unprecedented interference with the CSG ballot process requires the significant action we take today,” he added.

In response, the Central Student Government released a statement that read while university policy was breached, its governing documents do not clearly forbid this conduct — and had declined to shut down the vote — but that campus brass stepped in and shut down voting.

Meanwhile, tension at the University of Michigan between pro- and anti-Israel factions on campus remains high.

The week after the Oct. 7 terrorist attack by Hamas, which killed more than 1,200 Israeli civilians, the university was the site of pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel protests, prompting police presence on the quad starting Oct. 9, when more than 1,000 students held a vigil for Israeli victims, the Michigan Review reported.

Prior to the voting on the two resolutions, University of Michigan police arrested 40 people after breaking up a pro-Palestinian protest of hundreds, some of whom had forced their way into an administrative building, The College Fix reported.

The pro-Palestinian ballot measure, titled “University Accountability in the Face of Genocide,” called on the University of Michigan “take an educated and non-discriminatory stance on violence and systems of apartheid, especially given recent developments in Israel and Palestine.” It further called on the university to “investigate their investments in any apartheid regime in the world.”

The petition was started following comments made by University of Michigan President Santa Ono on Oct. 10, which reinforced the university’s support of Israel, stating “violence is never the answer,” and calling the attack by Hamas terrorists “horrific.”

Ono added in a follow-up statement on Oct. 13 that in the wake of escalating violence in Gaza, “moral clarity against any act of terrorism is not, and should not, be controversial at the University of Michigan.”

The pro-Palestinian petition asked the university to “recognize the millions of people undergoing genocide in Gaza.”

The measure was spearheaded by Students Aligned for Freedom and Equality, or SAFE, an anti-Israel group described online as “a Palestinian solidarity organization and the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter at the University of Michigan–Ann Arbor,” Fox News reported.

Reached for Comment, SAFE referred The College Fix to its online social media posts for comment. The two Instagram posts denounce the university for canceling the vote and reject administrators’ characterization of their mass email as “unauthorized.”

The pro-peace resolution, in contrast, had stated in part that given “recent developments in Israel and Gaza, it is imperative that the University understands the personal impact these events are having on students across campus. As such, the University needs to seek out opportunities to bridge students together in this time of increased division and tension.”

The student government has announced its intent to “relaunch these petition-resolutions in the coming weeks.”

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include statements to The College Fix from the university and SAFE.

MORE: Forty pro-Palestinian protesters arrested at University of Michigan

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About the Author
College Fix contributor Garrett Marchand is a pre-law student at the University of Alabama majoring in political science and economics with a minor in the Blount Scholars Program. Garrett is a member of Young Americans for Freedom. He is a contributor for Alabama's student paper, The Crimson White.