9 March 2009 | The Daily Mississippian
By Tim Summers
Assistant News Editor
After more than two hours of debate, the ASB senate voted not to pass a resolution that would withdraw the university”s investment funds from companies which sell arms to the Israeli military Monday night.
Resolution 09-05 was defeated by a vote of 19-11, with seven abstaining.
The Campus Anti-War Network (CAN) set up a table in front of the Student Union before the meeting in order to educate students and gather more signatures for their petition related to divestment.
“Our purpose was to just make ourselves visible,” CAN president, ASB senator from the graduate school and author of Resolution 09-05 Dan Blazo explained before the meeting. “We intend to keep the petition going no matter what happens.”
The text of the resolution stated that its purpose was to recognize the “social responsibility as pertaining to financial investment … resolving to modify the investment portfolio held by the University of Mississippi … by divesting university funds from those companies and corporations that currently provide arms for the Israeli military.”
At the 7 p.m. weekly ASB meeting in the Student Union, Blazo and three guest speakers began the discussion by introducing the resolution and stating why each believed the resolution should pass. The speakers were Griffith Brownlee, an English instructor at Ole Miss; Ceylon Mooney from the International Solidarity Movement (ISM); and Andrew Stachiw, president of Students for Justice in Palestine (SPJ) of Hampshire College in Massachusetts.
Brownlee, a former marine, encouraged the senate to approach the situation from an anti-war standpoint.
“War is a business, but not a good business,” Brownlee said. “When you take a side in a conflict, what you do is create an imbalance and that imbalance keeps the conflict from resolving itself.”
Mooney, who had just returned from the West Bank, expressed the importance of divesting in the prevention of Israeli aggression toward Palestinians.
“Let”s pull the batteries out of this stupid, bloody Energizer bunny,” Mooney said. “I think that there is more to consider than business.”
Stachiw explained this movement as related to the one at his home college, which passed a divestment resolution. He also compared divestment to the admittance of James Meredith and apartheid.
“We have a responsibility to act,” Stachiw said.
The discussion concerning the resolution among the senators revolved around the impact of the divestment on the financial security of the university, the perceived position of the university as a result of the resolution and the amount of student awareness and investment in the controversy. For a moment before the discussion began, the removal of all other parties including media representatives (besides the senators present) was put forward, but the motion received little support and was abandoned.
The common consensus was that the level of student awareness would have to increase in order for the senate to pass the resolution.
“To make a voice have impact, you need about 25 percent,” Sen. Sarah Bransford said. “To really speak for the student populace, you need people to say “This is why we did this, and these are the steps we took.” This requires not just 50 people and not just 600.”
Blazo remains confident despite the vote.
“I am encouraged by the results of the meeting tonight,” Blazo said in a phone interview. “Many of these senators have expressed open-mindedness, and we hope to open the minds of the remaining ones.”