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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Student senate compromises on Israel resolution, swears in new senators

Student+Senate+swore+in%26%23160%3B+new+senators+in+their+meeting+on+March+7.
Photo by Photo by Jesse Everett

Student Senate swore in  new senators in their meeting on March 7.

Newly-filled seats made for a packed house during Wednesday night’s meeting of the Texas A&M Student Senate, as new and returning senators discussed legislation and elected a new committee chair.
After nearly two hours of debate during open session, the senate passed the “Support of Aggie Israelis and Protection of Jewish Students Resolution,” taking a stand against anti-Semitism on campus, while diverging from the resolution’s initial wording, which contained a declaration of support for the state of Israel as a whole.
Originally introduced by College of Engineering Senator Jacob Powell and Off-campus Senator Olivia Krog as the “Support of Israel and Protection of Jewish Students Resolution,” the legislation expressed a commitment to fighting anti-Semitic influences at A&M, with a particular focus on the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) against Israel. Citing a recent rise in the prevalence of anti-Semitism at U.S. colleges, Powell said it was critical to prevent movements like BDS from gaining ground at A&M.
“According to the definition of anti-Semitism adopted by the U.S. Department of State, European Union, Canada and major Jewish organizations, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement is anti-Semitic in its effect, if not in its intent,” Powell read from the resolution.
The portions of the resolution condemning any potential BDS influence at A&M remained in the final version of the resolution, as did items expressing the senate’s commitment to a welcoming environment for Jewish and Israeli students.
“I think this is a really timely resolution,” Powell said. “High schoolers around the nation are deciding on a college to go to. If we do not take a stand against BDS and for Israel, then students who are Jewish might not feel safe here.”
However, the resolution originally contained an explicit declaration of support for the state of Israel, which raised questions about student government’s role in international affairs and was ultimately removed.
“Student senate stands with Israel as the preeminent beacon of democracy and champion of freedom in the Middle East as an academic, economic and ideological partner of our nation, our state and our university,” the original resolution read.
With the approval of an amendment proposed by Off-campus Senator Ja’Cory Clark, this section was replaced with an alternate statement written by College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Senator Jason Edmundson.
“Student Senate stands with Jewish and Israeli students as a valued member of the Aggie family,” the amended resolution read.
Finance Committee Chair Taylor Day said taking a side on a contentious international issue could present unnecessary challenges for student government going forward.
“We can say, ‘Hey, you’re from Israel, you’re Jewish, come be here, we’ll accept you, we’ll invite you, we’ll be open to you,’ that’s one thing,” Day said. “Making a very heavy political statement is another and I think we should be very mindful of the difference between those two.”
Krog said Student Senate has an obligation to support entities whose values are in line with the values of A&M and that the original wording should remain.
“This part of the resolution is the very part that explains why the rest of this follows,” Krog said. “It has to do with the fact that they are a democratic partner, that these students are representing the types of values that we espouse.”
Legislative Affairs Chair Katina Economides said a resolution looking to present a specific stance on a major political issue should be subject to additional research and input from the legislative affairs team to assess the consequences of taking any certain position.
“What I am against is taking a side as the Student Senate on a conflict like this,” Economedes said. “Because while we do have Israeli students, we also have students from all these other regions.”
With Clark’s amendment approved and the title adjusted, the resolution was passed by a vote of 38 for, six against and 12 abstaining.
Eric Mendoza, senator from the freshman caucus, was unanimously elected chair of the student services committee. Mendoza said he plans to continue pursuing policy goals in the areas of university dining and mental health services, as well the “pass it back, grads” initiative started by Senate Speaker Jasmine Wang. The project would give students an affordable option to rent graduation caps and gowns donated by former students.
At the start of the meeting, a group of the senators elected in the spring 2018 student body elections took the oath of office, filling vacancies in the senate’s current session. Addressing the newly sworn-in group, College of Engineering Senator Luis Moreno said recognizing and developing their potential as senators will be vital to effectively serving the student body.
“If your plan is just to have this on your resume, I want to discourage you from that,” Moreno said. “I want to encourage you to do something this year or upcoming year, and do something great for students.”

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