By Fangzhou Liu
In its first meeting this quarter, the 17th Undergraduate Senate discussed a new bill to fight anti-Semitism on campus, heard a Graduate Student Council (GSC) proposal to tackle sexual assault and confirmed the Nomination Commission’s timeline.
Bill against anti-Semitism
The Senate discussed a resolution on anti-Semitism which called upon the Undergraduate Senate to support the Jewish community against anti-Semitism. The resolution was written by Senator Molly Horwitz ’16 and sponsored by a spectrum of Jewish community organizations on campus such as J-Street U and Cardinal for Israel. The resolution drew a crowd of interested students who jumped in on the Senate debate over the bill’s language.
Although many Senators recognized the need to take a stance against bigotry, the inclusion of anti-Zionism as a form of anti-Semitism sparked heated debate.
“I just think using ‘anti-Zionism’ while claiming [the bill] is not a political statement is an irresponsible attempt to make a political statement under guise of not making one,” Gabriel Knight ’17 said, while also acknowledging the merits of the bill’s anti-discrimination language.
In response, Horwitz pointed out that the University of California Board of Regents had included anti-Zionism in its definition of anti-Semitism explicitly when it approved a recent report on intolerance.
“The University of California regent’s statement was specifically about extreme forms of anti-Zionism that enter into anti-Semitism, which is not okay,” Horwitz said.
Knight and Hattie Gawande ’18 followed up by asking for examples of anti-Semitic anti-Zionism on campus to assess the need for the language.
“When the advisory council said that they wouldn’t be divesting from companies complicit in occupation of Palestine last year, people said things like, ‘Hillel controls everything, the Jews control the leadership, it controls the advisory board, that’s why this is happening,’” Horowitz said, recalling the campus movement to divest from the occupation of Palestine last quarter. “There are clear issues with that, and a Stanford student also wrote about discrimination she’d faced.”
Melanie Malinas, a Ph.D. student in biophysics, took issue with the bill’s claim to represent the Jewish community, weaving in criticism of Israeli policy.
“I’m Jewish. I’m anti-Zionist. We exist. There are more of us than you might think,” Malinas said. “I’m a Jewish student and I think this bill further promotes division within the Jewish community. People like me, people who don’t believe Israel has the right to enforce a Jewish demographic majority, would be made more uncomfortable by this bill.”
Referring to the long list of co-sponsoring organizations, some of which had supported the divestment movement in Stanford last year, Matthew Cohen ’18 responded, “We’re never going to make everybody happy on this one. It’s just not going to happen, and that’s true for every community at Stanford. I’m sorry you happen to disagree on this, but there’s such strong consensus among different wings of the Jewish community at Stanford [for this bill], and that speaks to something.”
Gawande summarized several Senators’ reactions by suggesting that the term “anti-Zionism” be removed from the bill, while retaining the clauses against “demonizing Israel.”
The discussion ended with a decision to revise the bill’s language and further discuss at the next Senate meeting.
Graduate Student Council scheme on sexual assault prevention
Sam Bydlon Ph.D. ’17, financial manager for the Graduate Student Council (GSC), read a proposal to combat sexual violence among both graduate and undergraduate students.
His three-pronged approach consisted of more comprehensive sexual violence education for both graduate and undergraduate students, increased funding and staffing for the Office of Sexual Assault & Relationship Abuse (SARA) and a new definition of sexual violence. He stressed that SARA only has one full-time worker at present and urgently requires extra funding.
“Through all these conversations, we’ve genuinely got the impression that the administration is trying very hard to solve this problem,” Bydlon said, speaking of his collaboration with university officials. “It’s a very complicated problem, and these are our sets of ideas to make that better.”
For undergraduates, he proposed a five- to 10-hour mandatory training program for freshmen to be completed within their first year at Stanford. All graduate students would have a mandatory online training course, while some interested graduate students would be hired as educators for freshmen.
Bydlon explained the need for comprehensive education about consent and sexual violence by example.
“One of the things that came out of the adjudication process was that you’ll have two people who genuinely believe they’re in the right, with one person thinking they did nothing wrong and one person genuinely feeling like they were sexually assaulted,” Bydlon said.
The proposal also included a more comprehensive definition of sexual violence and misconduct based on Dartmouth College’s language, while it defined relationship violence based on University of Michigan’s definition. These sources were recommended by Law School faculty and SARA officials.
The proposal met with rousing support from the Senate. Senators were mainly concerned with the administration’s attitude towards the proposal and the need to ensure continuity across different Senates.
“I doubt if we passed this the Provost will accept it immediately – what’s our next step going to be?” Gawande said.
“I recommend a joint graduate and undergraduate subcommittee to form the committee and recruit graduate students who could get trained to educate freshmen,” responded Bydlon, “but I think we would have to work with the next Senate. I am in support of something more permanent though, especially since institutional memory might be lost.”
ASSU President John-Lancaster Finley ’16 ended the discussion on an optimistic note.
“I’ve yet to see [the administration] flat-out deny anything,” Finley said. “We’ve always been met with some kind of conversation, which has been very pleasantly surprising to me, given that I’ve been on the ASSU for a long time. I would be surprised to see Provost Etchemendy not form a committee and make it happen.”
Finally, Finley updated the Senate on various initiatives that it had passed in the previous weeks. He confirmed that the Faculty Senate unanimously passed the resolution to rename Stanford entities named after Junipero Serra and that a committee chaired by Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History Emeritus David Kennedy ’63 is moving forward with planning and concrete action.
He also stated that he had proposed to tighten the WAYS Engaging Diversity requirement before the Faculty Senate, so as to deal with issues of identity and sexual violence more rigorously.