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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, April 20, 2024

TCU Senate passes 3 of 4 resolutions seeking university accountability for ties to Israel

After hours of debate, senators pass CPLT-proposed resolutions S.24-2, 24-3 and 24-4 but reject 24-1 in an anonymous vote.

Students gathered en masse outside of the Joyce Cummings Center Ballroom before entering the public TCU Senate meeting.

This is a developing story. The article has been updated with comment from Tufts’ executive director of media relations.

In the early hours of Monday, the Tufts Community Union Senate voted to approve three out of four resolutions formally calling on University President Sunil Kumar to recognize genocide in Gaza, for the university to divest from Israeli companies and for it to cease selling Sabra products in dining halls. It did not, however, pass a resolution calling on the university to end approval for study abroad programs at universities in Israel.

Even before the 7:45 p.m. Sunday start time, a crowd formed in front of the open meeting room in the Joyce Cummings Center. With a turnout of approximately 310 attendees, who spoke both in favor and against the resolutions, deliberations lasted four and a half hours before the Senate voted anonymously in a closed session, releasing the results shortly after 3 a.m. Monday.

“We’re disappointed that a majority voted to pass three of the resolutions,” Patrick Collins, Tufts’ executive director of media relations, wrote in an statement to the Daily. “To be clear, as we have done in the past, we reject the boycott, divest, and sanction movement; we wholeheartedly support academic freedom and all our academic, exchange, and affiliated study abroad programs; and we will continue to work with all companies that we engage with and do business with now.”

The Coalition for Palestinian Liberation proposed the original resolution texts.

S. 24-1 demanded that the Global Education office end approval for study abroad programs at universities in Israel. To approve a resolution, the Senate must reach a simple majority. The voting ended in a tie with 16 senators in support, 16 against and three abstaining.

S. 24-2, calling on Tufts Dining to halt the sale of Sabra products, passed in a vote of 22–9–4. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement has called for the boycott of Sabra because its co-owners, the Strauss Group, have materially supported the Israeli military’s Golani Brigade.

Amended during the proceedings, a prior draft also called for Tufts to stop selling Pillsbury products. Authors noted that Pillsbury has been taking “meaningful steps” to distance itself from Israel and as such did not necessitate a boycott.

S. 24-3 passed with the largest margin of support with 28 senators approving, five rejecting and two abstaining. According to the text, the resolution calls upon the university president, deans and provost to acknowledge the Palestinian genocide, apologize for Kumar’s previous statements and have a public open meeting between CPLT, the Office of the President and the deans of the school.

S. 24-4 demands that the Tufts Investment Office disclose all of the university’s investments and then divest from companies tied directly and indirectly to Israel. Of the resolutions that passed, S. 24-4 had the greatest number of opposing votes, with 22 senators approving, 11 rejecting and two abstaining.

Throughout the evening, students gave emotional testimonies. One Palestinian student described their experience returning home to the West Bank, subjected to hours of Israeli checkpoints. They recounted how their father was shot in September 2023.

Other students recounted feeling ostracized as Jews during a divisive campus issue. Some students described their family members killed in the Holocaust and how the Oct. 7 attacks on Israelis brought to mind “traumatic historical echoes.” In response, another Jewish student asked that peers stop “using generational trauma to justify another genocide.”

Roughly halfway through, about 30 students walked out after two speakers against the resolutions were met with vocal reactions from other members of the crowd.

“We’ve asked multiple times for respect,” one speaker commented to the Daily. “I can’t stay because every time we try to talk, that’s how they act. We are merely students trying to have a debate with something so complicated.”

Shortly after the altercation, several Tufts students alleged via an @jewishoncampus Instagram post that they faced incidents of antisemitism, including discriminatory remarks and rude gestures, while leaving the venue.

“Though much of the debate was civil and respectful, we have received reports of antisemitic and Islamophobic words and actions that occurred before and during the meeting,” Collins wrote. “This is entirely unacceptable and should be met with condemnation from the entire community, regardless of individual perspectives on the resolutions. We will be investigating these accusations thoroughly and will hold accountable any student found to have engaged in these behaviors.”

TCU Senate Parliamentarian Tolulope Adewumi and TCU President Arielle Galinsky reminded the audience to abide by meeting protocol and allow speakers their uninterrupted time to testify. Many students who left returned to the floor. The remainder of the discussion proceeded without major disruption, as each resolution was proposed and discussed in turn.

In the Q&A portion of the final resolution, a senator asked the authors whether any other private universities had made all their investments fully public, to which one of the resolutions’ authors replied, “We aim to spark change, not be followers.”

While initially proposed by the Coalition for Palestinian Liberation, the resolutions were officially submitted by the African Student Organization, the Tufts Asian Student Coalition, the South Asian Political Action Committee, Association of LAS, the indigenous students organization at tufts, Tufts Labor Coalition, the Muslim Students Association, Arab Students Association, Students for Justice in Palestine, the Eritrean and Ethiopian Students Association, the Pan-Afrikan Alliance, First Gen Collective, Tufts Pole Dance Collective, Tufts Bhangra, Persian Students Association, Bengali Student Association, Black Student Union, JumboRaas, Association of Mixed People at Tufts, Chinese Students Association, Project SHARE, Taiwanese Association of Students at Tufts, Tufts Encendido, Myanmar Students Union and Korean Students Association.

The resolutions demand a response from mentioned Tufts offices within two weeks. In an Instagram post after the vote, the Coalition for Palestinian Liberation called on community members to withhold donations from Tufts until it meets resolution demands passed by TCU.

Michael Onysko and Josue Perez contributed reporting.