ASG passes Unshackle NU resolution, urges private prison divestment


Sophie Mann/Daily Senior Staffer

SESP freshman Sky Patterson speaks Wednesday night at Associated Student Government Senate in support of Unshackle NU’s resolution. The resolution passed 28-5.

Erica Snow, Reporter

A resolution presented by Unshackle NU supporting divestment from companies it said support mass incarceration passed 28-5 with 8 abstentions in Associated Student Government Senate on Wednesday.

The vote, recorded by secret ballot, came after more than an hour of debate over proposed amendments to certain provisions of the resolution.

The resolution called on the University to divest from specific companies the resolution’s authors said promote mass incarceration and the oppression of people of color, such as G4S, one of the world’s largest security companies. The University currently has less than $1 million invested in G4S, William McLean, Northwestern’s chief investment officer, told The Daily in a January email.

“You claim to be the voice of the student body,” said Weinberg junior Marcel Hanna when addressing Senate before the vote. “We’ve had a campaign, we’ve had support for that campaign, so it’s your job to amplify those voices.”

The secret ballot, used when proposed representation reform failed Feb. 17 and when Northwestern Divest narrowly passed a divestment resolution last year, did not enforce accountability, some senators said.

“At the end of the day, abstaining isn’t being neutral,” Yusuf Kudaimi, senator for the Muslim-cultural Student Association and Persian American Representatives of Students, told The Daily. “If you’re abstaining, you’re basically saying there’s nothing that needs to be done about this very obvious problem of mass incarceration.”

However, mention of G4S’ involvement in Palestine and human rights violations in the resolution made some students uncomfortable with the resolution even though they supported divestment from private prisons, said Ross Krasner, a residential senator and co-president of Wildcats for Israel.

Krasner, who said he abstained, said he met with other members of Wildcats for Israel throughout this week and did not feel comfortable with the ties between NU Divest and Unshackle NU.

“It was the toughest decision I’ve made since being president of Wildcats for Israel or being an ASG senator,” the Medill sophomore told The Daily. “The message I want to send to pro-Israel students is that you can support prison divestment and support Israel’s right to exist but I don’t think that this was inclusive of that view.”

Several amendments to the legislation were introduced, the first by Unshackle NU to acknowledge oppression of indigenous people and the involvement of NU founder John Evans in the Sand Creek Massacre.

Weinberg senior Jonathan Kamel, an Interfraternity Council senator, proposed an amendment adding a list of seven countries’ names that he said also violated human rights, including Australia, the United Kingdom and India. Including other names of countries where G4S is active, he said, would clarify the resolution and help Unshackle NU when presenting the resolution to administrators.

However, the mentioning of only some of the countries committing human rights violations showed “cherry-picking” and took away the resolution’s focus on anti-blackness and mass incarceration in the United States, Unshackle NU members said.

Debate about the resolution was mostly centered on amendments, many of which were proposed by people Kudaimi said were not involved with Unshackle NU. The Weinberg sophomore added that he was glad the resolution passed, despite the slow process.

“There was huge conversation two weeks about centering marginalized students’ voices,” Kudaimi said. “This resolution will be remembered as passed in spite of ASG, instead of thanks to ASG. We had the chance to really elevate these students, their opinions on campus, and really we just created a hindrance.”

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