This year’s Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions resolution, called the Responsible Investments Resolution, appears like it was put on the agenda at the last minute as a guerrilla attack. Announced last minute by A.S. Senate, the resolution being sent out so late to the public seems like an attempt to avoid long public comment time. The resolution, authored by Off-Campus Senator Brandon Mora and On-Campus Senator Vanessa Maldonado, was included as an addition to the agenda rather than as an initial proposal, causing panic among several senators and those in the UCSB community who are both pro- and anti-divestment.
As stated on the BDS website, BDS “is a Palestinian-led movement for freedom, justice and equality” and a global campaign advocating for various forms of boycott against Israel. It urges corporations to “withdraw investments from all Israeli companies and from international companies involved in violating Palestinian rights.” Senate has debated on the resolution nearly every year since it was first introduced at UCSB in 2013, yet the university remains the last UC to effectively pass it.
As a highly contested subject, it is possible that the Responsible Investments Resolution was proposed at the last-minute to decrease the amount of discussion on the issue and easily pass it. Mora and Maldonado, along with groups like Students for Justice in Palestine and other BDS supporters, may have wanted to reduce the amount of time community members had to compose speeches so the meeting would be shorter. Ironically, the resolution caused so much controversy that the session lasted until 5 a.m. and would have extended longer had 14 of the requisite senators stayed after a recess.
Last year, former Off-Campus Senator Patrick Dohoney brought up the arrival of BDS at a senate meeting one week prior to its arrival. However, this year, no public announcement about divestment came about until the official senate agenda, with the resolution included, was sent out a few hours before the meeting took place on Wednesday, May 16. Although not explicitly stated in the A.S. Legal Code, over the course of the past school year, additional proposals have been officially placed on the agenda by 10 a.m. on the day of the meeting. While the writers of the resolution technically complied with this deadline, it was inconsiderate to prolong the confirmation and announcement of the resolution’s arrival, especially given its controversial nature.
Furthermore, in years past, SJP has announced the return of its divestment campaign on their Facebook page, but this year, there was no notice about its arrival. Yet, during last Wednesday’s meeting, College of Letters & Science Senator Stoddy Carey claimed that the BDS resolution was titled “UCSB SJP Divestment” in the Senate’s group chat, indicating the organization’s involvement.
Because BDS is such a controversial topic, those who knew about its eventual arrival may have been attempting to test whether or not people would react differently to the resolution than in years past if it was placed on the agenda at the last minute. Perhaps they thought this tactic would increase the chances of the resolution passing, because those who opposed the resolution would be so unprepared that they would fail to argue effectively, decreasing the time it would take to make a decision.
This method of stealth was unsuccessful and unfair, especially to senators who were surprised by the resolution and to groups in the UCSB community, like Students Supporting Israel. Failing to put such a controversial resolution on the official agenda without more warning only increased the tension between the two sides and, ironically, caused a greater turnout by opposition to the resolution at the meeting.
Open conversation between the two sides is critical to decrease the polarity of the issue and to reduce the amount of time spent on the topic. Unfortunately, the senators’ decision to release the official agenda at the last minute further silenced the pro-Israel side while providing more leverage to the pro-BDS side. This created an unequal balance of power and diminished any chance for effective communication.
Ultimately, regardless of one’s views on BDS, the senators writing this year’s pro-divestment resolution tactic of placing the resolution on the official agenda at the last moment was a deceptive effort to bypass difficult conversations in order to pass controversial legislation.