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University of Michigan Votes Against Divestment

The school’s student government rejects controversial proposal 25 votes to 9

Lily Wilf
March 26, 2014
(University of Michigan)
(University of Michigan)

After a lively debate Tuesday night that lasted until after midnight Wednesday, the University of Michigan’s Central Student Government, or CSG, voted to reject a controversial resolution calling on the university to divest from companies that the legislation’s proponents argue are complicit in violating Palestinian human rights. Widespread discussion about the resolution began last week after the CSG indefinitely postponed a vote on the matter, prompting a week-long campus sit-in by student supporters of the resolution.

Last night, in a CSG session with an unprecedented number of attendees and speakers, student representatives reconvened to reconsider their initial vote on the resolution, ultimately voting 25 to 9 (with five abstentions) to reject the proposal entirely.

Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE), the organization responsible for the resolution, had asked the University to divest its interests in United Technologies, General Electric, Heidelberg Cement, and Caterpillar, Inc., companies that hold contracts with the Israeli military. Emotions ran high around campus during the week, culminating in last night’s six-hour meeting, which was attended by 375 students in the CSG meeting room, 200 students in an overflow space next-door, and live streamed to more than 2,000 viewers online. The Twitter hashtag #UMDivest was active all night, with supporters on all sides of the debate expressing solidarity with the students in Ann Arbor.

University professors, law students, and undergraduates spoke in three-minute intervals for and against the resolution to an audience dressed the University’s colors of maize and blue. When CSG representatives took the floor, the conversation shifted to animosities on campus, specifically threats and insults reportedly received by students in the days following last week’s vote postponement. One representative said, “Students were personally targeted, threatened, and attacked. Nobody should be fearful walking to class. When elected representatives are harassed, the democratic process is undermined.”

CSG voted on the resolution just before the building closed for the night. After the decision was announced, supporters of the resolution left the chambers to rally outside an administrative building, announcing their plans to take the divestment proposal to the University’s Board of Regents.

That same night, Chicago’s Loyola University’s Student Government Association voted to pass a similar resolution 12-10, with nine abstentions.

Update: The president of Loyola University’s Student Government Association has vetoed the measure, though the student senate can override the veto with a two-thirds majority.

Lily Wilf is an editorial intern at Tablet.