March 30, 2020

Illinois Student President Vetoes BDS Resolution

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The student president at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign vetoed a boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) resolution that the student senate passed on Feb. 13.

The student-run Daily Illini reported that Illinois Student Government (ISG) President Connor Josellis issued the veto on Feb. 16, saying in a statement, “One of my primary obligations as student body president is to make sure that all students are able to participate in a campus environment where all feel safe to learn and be themselves. Approving a resolution that hundreds of students have said will do the opposite would not be doing my job.”

Illini Chabad Rabbi Dovid Tiechtel applauded the veto in a statement to the Journal.

“Being a leader is needing to make decisions in tough times,” he said. “I applaud Connor, who took a leadership position here, to keep our campus from sliding even further in to division and strife. I know it’s not easy; he epitomizes leadership.”

The UIUC Divest coalition denounced Josellis’ veto as a means of silencing Palestinian voices.

“This red flagging of Palestine-related speech is aided and abetted by pro-Israel groups on college campuses that receive heavy institutional support and funding from outside the university, as well as the Israeli government and its public relations initiatives on U.S. campuses,” UIUC Divest wrote in a Feb. 17 Facebook post. “This veto is but one in a long line of attempts meant to silence criticisms of Israel and further isolate and exclude Palestinians from the sphere of human rights.”

The ISG senate will need a two-thirds majority vote in order to overrule the veto. The senate had passed the resolution with 20 votes in favor, 9 against and 7 abstentions.

Josellis also said in his statement that he condemned comments that “have made students feel unsafe and have fostered climate of hate on this campus.” During the debate on the resolution at the Feb. 12 student senate meeting, a Jewish student said she had been called a Nazi for being pro-Israel; a student sitting with the UIUC Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter shouted, “Damn right!” to applause. Jewish groups on campus demanded that SJP and the ISG condemn the incident. SJP UIUC said in a Feb. 15 statement posted to Facebook, “We reject this comment, as it is antithetical to our values as SJP. This comment was made by someone that is unknown to SJP and its allies. Once we were made aware of who this person was, we demanded for them to apologize to the affected parties. They have since apologized under the posts that brought this issue to our attention.”