On Dec. 3, 2002 the Student Association Senate passed “A Resolution expressing the Student Association’s support of enhancing and maintaining the U.S.-Israel relationship.” This resolution was based on a petition circulated on campus, which garnered more than a thousand signatures. The passage of this resolution sparked a passionate debate over many issues. After careful consideration I came to the conclusion I cannot support this legislation because of my belief of the role of the SA.
Our campus is a political one, with many groups representing a vast number of views and advocating for many different causes. These groups allow students to express their views collectively and work together to try and achieve their goals. It is altogether appropriate for the SA to support these groups, which we do through initial allocations and co-sponsorships. Supporting these groups is one of the most important things we do.
However, there is a distinction between supporting a group and supporting their issue or cause. While each student may choose which groups they wish to be a part of, and thus choose the issues they wish to support, the SA represents everyone. We are the voice of every student, from graduate to undergraduate, law to medical and part-time to full-time. We represent students from every state and from more than 125 countries. We have students from a variety of backgrounds, with different religions and who have different beliefs. This diversity is what makes our University strong.
Many people have pointed to the resolution supporting free condoms and the legislation I sponsored encouraging Congress to alter the Higher Education Act to allow federal funding for students with drug convictions as examples of the Student Association taking up political issues. These pieces of legislation are targeted at issues that directly impact students on our campus. Sexually transmitted diseases or the loss of federal loan support are things that have a direct and adverse affect on our students. While this resolution has a significant impact on many of our students, that impact is indirect in nature and not comparable to the aforementioned issues.
It is also important that we look to our history to help guide our decisions in this case. There was a time when the SA became politically active, passing resolutions opposed to the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War. These resolutions were the precipitating factor in the dissolution of the SA in the early 1970’s.
I would like to offer my thanks to all of the students who offered their opinions during the past days. Please know that all your voices were heard and considered. I have given special consideration to the request of the resolution’s sponsor, Sen. Chrissy Trotta (CCAS-U), who asked that I veto the legislation because of the divisiveness that had resulted. I sincerely hope that the dialogue that has been created is sustained. If groups can come together to have peaceful discussions in the same manner that I have witnessed over the past few days, then there is hope for peace in our time.
It is the responsibility of the SA to be the voice for all students. This resolution asks me to support a political issue on behalf of students. It is not within my right or the SA’s to do so.
-The writer, a senior majoring in business, is Student Association president.