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Monday, June 10, 2024

Senate hears public comments about Israel-Palestine conflict at Oct. 12 meeting

Members of Aggies for Israel, Students for Justice in Palestine and other concerned students spoke at the meeting


By SYDNEY AMESTOY — campus@theaggie.org


Vice President Aarushi Raghunathan called the Oct. 12 senate meeting to order at 6:25 p.m. After roll call, she read the UC Davis Land Acknowledgement.

Up first on the agenda was the confirmation of new Ethnic and Cultural Affairs (ECAC) commissioners. There were seven applicants up for confirmation, with six being present over Zoom to answer the senate’s questions about their ideas for the future of ECAC. One applicant was not present. 

Senator Gaysinsky began the round of questions by asking the potential commissioners how they would make sure not to leave certain ethnic groups out when ECAC gets involved in politically charged situations as it has done in the past. 

“As a commission, we’re only able to represent our life experience as best as possible,” Emily Rehn, one of the potential commissioners, answered. “So I think when there’s especially charged issues when you’re holding the public forums, listening to peers [and] voices of students [to open] that up to try to understand more perspectives on the issue… Just trying to use our best judgment, and our little experience or the experience of other people that we know to make the best moral judgments we can.”

Other potential commissioners explained their goals when they become part of the ECAC.

“I just think [that] before we can start thinking about ways to support the community, we should first start to rebuild what we have already,” another potential commissioner, Mehalet Shibre, said. “For me, I’d like to see, potentially, a multicultural festival. I know that we have culturally specific festivals, but in order for people to experience essential cultures at once, I think that would be an interesting idea — to have a multicultural festival.”

After the rounds of questioning, the six present applicants were voted in unanimously. One participant was not present but was made a commissioner in a separate vote. 

The Academic Affairs Commission (AAC) commissioner confirmations followed. There were two applicants, both receiving recommendations from the AAC Chair Britney Cao. 

Mahir Yasar, one of the potential commissioners, ran on the idea of eliminating what he believes to be unethical accessibility practices within the financial aid system. Another potential commissioner, Spencer Smith, applied due to his interest in academic practices regarding students with disabilities. 

Both were unanimously voted into commissioner roles. 

There was a brief five-minute break for senators and officials to turn in their officer reports, but these reports were not shared during the meeting.

Next on the agenda was a brief presentation on the upcoming year by the Cross Cultural Center (CCC), given by Joe Martinez, the director of the center.

“If you could think for just 10 seconds, if you could imagine, for yourself, what a just and liberated world would be,” Martinez said. “What could that look like? …At times, it’s advocating for groups I don’t identify with. But if I’m an advocate, I’m more than an ally. I’m actually doing the work together with those folks. That’s how we can work together towards a more just world. So that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Martinez then spoke on the different events coming up in the next year that were in part sponsored through the CCC.

The Asian Pacific Island Community (APIC) Night Market has become a light festival, and is scheduled to take place on Nov. 18 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. On April 12, 2024, the UC Davis Powwow Committee, the Tecumseh Center and the Native American studies program will host a powwow in the Memorial Union quad. A powwow is a social gathering intended to provide the Davis community with a space to learn about and celebrate the traditions of Indigenous peoples, according to the Cross Cultural Center’s website. The Danzantes Del Alma (DDA) dance festival at the Mondavi Center will be held on April 27, 2024, and Black Family Day will be on May 4, 2024 at the east quad.

The meeting then shifted into public comments, which saw members of Aggies for Israel, Students for Justice in Palestine and several other concerned students arrive to speak with the senate on the violence that has occurred in the region.

Due to the influx of public speakers, Raghunathan made a motion to limit the public comments portion of the meeting to thirty minutes, with each speaker getting two minutes to share their thoughts.

“The past week has been absolutely horrifying,” President of Aggies for Israel Carly Klinger said. “And I do not just mean that for Jewish ministry people. I mean for everybody that has been affected by this. It has been absolutely gut-wrenching to watch civilians on both sides lose their homes, their families and their lives. With that being said, I would like to share my experience as a Jewish-Israeli student over the past week because I think it is important for those of you that do not share those identities to understand.”

Klinger went on to share her thoughts on how ASUCD should respond to the unfolding situation.

“I have been obsessed, checking my phone every thirty seconds to make sure that my family and my friends are alive, and that their family and their friends are alive,” Klinger said. “I’m here today to ask all of you in student government to please let those of us involved in this conflict handle it ourselves and to not get involved. It is so important that we as students are able to process this on our own. And while your solidarity is appreciated, it is key that if you’re not part of this, you stay out.”

Students advocating for Palestine also spoke to the senate on their thoughts towards how ASUCD should respond.

 “I want to note that this is not this is not just something that affects Palestinians in Palestine,” a member of Students for Justice in Palestine said. “Your Palestinian student body standing before you today is in danger. We see it on campus and we are seeing this nationwide. Our students are being doxed for advocating for Palestinians. Our allies are being doxed for advocating for Palestinians. I stand before you now in fear that I will be doxed and not be allowed to return to my homeland. I’m advocating for my rightful right to return under international law. And I want to note that you guys are failing at protecting your Palestinian students and their allies and you have been with your silence for decades.”

Due to people speaking out of turn and interrupting other speakers, Raghunathan ordered the end of public comments at 8:37 p.m. After the end of public comments, a break was ordered to allow the numerous speakers to leave the room.

The senate then moved into the status of previous legislation, with both SB #3 and #4 signed and passed. The consent calendar was also passed.

SB#2, which sought to add an additional required 10 hours of tabling to a senator’s schedule per quarter, was tabled. All other new legislation was tabled by the Internal Affairs Committee. 

Next, emergency legislation that concerned the upcoming Planet Her event, taking place on Oct. 20, was discussed. Due to the CoHo pulling out of catering at the last minute, Senator Dani Antonio needed additional funding to bring Costco pizza to the event. After some discussion, the emergency legislation passed and the funding was secured. 

Open forum followed, where senators discussed the public comments from their own perspectives. 

“I have studied this conflict for years,” Senator Gaysinsky said. “It is something I want to spend my life trying to solve. That is what I’m dedicating myself to. So if at any point anyone [in the senate] has questions, I have reading recommendations. I will talk to you if you have questions one-on-one. I have to admit I am Israeli — I have that point of view, and I have that bias. So please talk to Palestinians as well. You have to get both angles of this [and] you have to actually do your research.”

“I’ll be frank, prior to this meeting, the administration said that because Students for Palestine was coming to this meeting, we would need higher security measures,” External Affairs Vice President Celene Aridin said. “I don’t think it’s fair when you target either group singularly. I think it’s fair to say both groups are coming in and tensions are high… When you only target one side, you perpetuate a stereotype.” 

“I condemn the way the admin handled this, and I condemn that only one side is called out for being a security risk, when both sides were here to speak peacefully. People were crying, people’s families back home are buried under the rubble or being killed,” Aridin said. “It’s not fair that one side is being considered by administration when worldwide both sides are being harmed by third parties… It’s not fair, and frankly, I would say it’s racist to call only Palestinians security risks because it insinuates that we are harmful people. We as a whole are not harmful people. No side as a whole is harmful.”

After the open forum discussion, the meeting was called to a close at 9:43 p.m.


Written by: Sydney Amestoy — campus@theaggie.org