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Davis, California

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Letter to the Editor

Dear Madame:

I have no doubt your publication will be shortly inundated with commentary on the upcoming divestment resolution, as such proposals have histories of rending UC campuses in twain (see Berkeley, San Diego, Santa Barbara). It should say something that news has reached me of the advent from my quarter abroad in London.

A number of questions could be brought against the ASUCD Senate’s consideration of a divestment resolution. What does a student government have to do with the conflict? Could they be better focusing their efforts elsewhere? Is this debate (or shouting match as it’s likely to become) of any true educational value? However, I will refrain from launching those inquiries.

Instead I want to focus on the arrogance of a group of students, that they find themselves qualified and informed enough to submit a formal opinion on a conflict which has spanned decades (using the narrow view) and centuries (using the longer one).

The historical length and complexity of this conflict is what troubles me. Some of the smartest and best political minds during and beyond our lifetimes have attempted to resolve the schism and have been unsuccessful. Why? Because it is hard. Really, really hard.

A resolution is a rhetorical statement saying we believe X for this and this reason. The problem comes in the finality of the statement. If the ASUCD Senate actually believes they can reach a final and decisive decision on a subject greyer than a British Foxhound, then they can and should be accused of hubris so deep it puts them out of touch with a large portion of the students they supposedly represent.

I find myself far more favourable to the idea of ASUCD sponsoring a campus discussion of the issue so students can actually learn something about the conflict, and its history — that would educational; that would be in the role and interests of the student body.

Any more drastic action would be the senators presuming they know far better than their own electorate (not the spirit of democracy) and know better than the majority of world leaders in the last 40 years, claims I believe total a check too large for our student government to properly cash.

Cheerio from across the pond,
Justin Goss
Fifth-year political science major


  1. Preface with: while I am sympathetic to the Palestinian plight, I have no particularly strong feelings on the divestment vote; it strikes me as approximately as effective as buying free trade coffee. Smoke without fire as it were.

    That said, you offer four points I find misguided:

    1) You suggest that because something is *hard* students should refrain from judgement. While I agree students should be *prudent* and *thoughtful*, to refrain from taking hard positions is to abandon the intellectual project.

    2) You suggest that voting for divestment is viewed in some way as a *conclusion* to “this conflict”; no one thinks that. I’d offer that most supporters view it as a statement that the *status quo* is unacceptable.

    3) (related to 1) You’re right that many world leaders have vehemently disagreed on what to do about Palestine, although I think if you cast a wider net than you obviously have you’ll find “the majority” support the Palestinians (this is why vetos on the Security Council are important–guess who the GA sides with). However I’ll allow the point: lots of smart people disagree. What lots of smart people *do not* do is refrain from having an opinion because lots of smart people disagree. The world demands critical, deep thinking, and we should not shrink from it.

    4) Mr. Gross, I admire your optimism but I question your interpretation of the mechanics of republican government. You say “Any more drastic action would be the senators presuming they know far better than their own electorate” and I offer: they’re elected to have opinions and use their judgement to make decisions that the majority of “their electorate” may not have a firm position on–that’s why they’re representatives and that’s why they’re elected. The electorate may or may not be stupid (as it is in the country writ large–see au:”Converse”) but the voting booths are the medium for discipline, not trite letters to the editor.


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