ASG to vote Wednesday on controversial divestment resolution

Shane McKeon, Assistant Campus Editor

Associated Student Government Senate will vote Wednesday on a Northwestern Divest-sponsored resolution asking the University to divest from six corporations the sponsors say violate Palestinians’ human rights.

The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. at Norris University Center’s Louis Room, a larger-than-usual venue to accommodate the larger crowd expected to attend.

Weinberg junior and Senate speaker Noah Star said students should bring their WildCARDs because ASG will require guests to check in before the meeting.

The resolution, introduced at Senate’s Feb. 11 meeting, calls for greater transparency in investing the University’s endowment and for NU to divest from six corporations that NUDivest believes the University is invested in.

The Investment Office does not release information on its investments.

Weinberg senior Ariel Roitman, the ASG senator representing NU Hillel, said he will vote against the resolution. Roitman said he supports the call for greater transparency, but that passing the resolution would align ASG with the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, a movement he finds “problematic for many reasons.”

“I don’t think we should invest in companies that violate human rights anywhere in the world,” he said. “Where I disagree with them is I do think this is a political resolution. It has a lot of political implications, and I am very concerned about those implications.”

NUDivest held a workshop Feb. 5 to educate students on the BDS movement and to clarify misconceptions about it.

Weinberg junior and NUDivest member Noah Whinston, a senator for off-campus students, helped author the resolution. He said NUDivest has no organizational stance on the political issues Roitman referenced. Whinston answered questions about the resolution at the Feb. 11 meeting.

“Within our organization, there are people who believe in many different political solutions to the conflict, which is why we don’t have an organizational stance,” he said. “The only affiliation we have with the BDS call is that we are pursuing part of the divestment part of the call.”

Whinston also said NUDivest avoids taking a political stance because students aren’t able to affect widespread, political change in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“We recognize that the conflict is really complex and has a lot of history behind it, which is why we don’t think that we as students are qualified or, really, able to make a real impact when it comes to political solutions,” he said. “We can have an impact on Northwestern’s investment policy, which is why we’ve taken a stance on that.”

University President Morton Schapiro told The Daily in January that he encourages this sort of debate on campus, so long as it remains civil.

“When I came here six years ago, I was surprised that the level of political activism was so low here. … I always wanted to encourage people to think more about global issues,” Schapiro said. “As long as people do it in a respectful way, I think political activism is an important part of any campus.”

Senators will be able to vote through secret ballots if there is an individual motion for it and a simple majority vote in favor of it, Star told The Daily.

The resolution needs a majority of votes cast to pass, so long as the total number of votes cast outnumbers abstentions. For example, if there were 21 senators present, the resolution could pass with seven votes in favor, six votes against and eight abstentions.

Star clarified these rules in an email to senators.

“I just wanted to make sure that we’re creating a space that will lead to productive debate,” Star told The Daily. “I have every expectation that that is the space we’re going to create.”

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Twitter: @Shane_McKeon