“We’re done,” announced Undergraduate Senator Matthew Wigler ’19, marching back into Nitery 209 after stepping out of the Senate’s 23rd meeting to deliberate changes to his “Resolution To Recognize Anti-Semitism.” He was followed closely by Jewish Voice for Peace member Jennifer Perry ’19 and Stanford Jewish Student Association (JSA) President Jacob Kaplan-Lipkin ’19, who spent much of Tuesday’s meeting discussing the relationship between anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli sentiments in an effort to unite behind the unanimously approved resolution.
The debate was sparked by an email sent to the senators by Perry less than two hours before Tuesday’s meeting. In it, Perry criticized the resolution’s link to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism, which states that “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor” is an example of anti-Semitism.
Under the resolution, the Senate “recognizes anti-Semitism as an important problem on our campus and condemns it in all its forms and amongst all its purveyors.” A similar resolution was passed by the Senate in 2016 with Wigler as a co-sponsor, though senators noted in Tuesday’s meeting that the goals of the resolution were not met, prompting the new resolution. Perry noted in the email that the 2016 resolution did not use the IHRA definition.
The Senate will “honor all of its previous diversity sensitivity training commitments,” including discussions on Islamophobia and other forms of bigotry, with Stanford’s support, the resolution reads, in addition to providing “an explicit commitment that members of the 21st Undergraduate Senate and the next iteration of the Executive Cabinet undertake such trainings.”
The resolution also directs the Senate to request that Stanford “adopt an active strategy and systematic plan to counter anti-Semitism on our campus and in our community.” Ideas suggested within the resolution included convening an anti-Semitism task force of campus community members and external stakeholders, in addition to launching educational efforts targeting anti-Semitism on campus.
Though Wigler agreed to remove the link to IHRA’s definition from the resolution, he expressed frustration with the direction of discussion on the resolution. He noted that he had managed to author the resolution without a single explicit mention of Israel.
“I was so hurt when I saw the email that came to the whole Senate,” Wigler said. “For once, I thought it wasn’t going to be about Israel.”
However, Senate Deputy Chair Jianna So ’21 suggested that linking the IHRA web page in the resolution is “effectively including everything in this page” and added “that is why we are having this conversation right now.” She proposed replacing the link in the resolution with sentences from the linked definition.
“I don’t understand what the pushback against including this language is in the bill, because what you link to in the bill already has that language,” So said.
After the meeting, Wigler told The Daily he was reluctant to change the resolution partly out of respect to its cosponsors’ support, including the unanimous support of the JSA in what Wigler called a “rare and special” occurrence.
Kaplan-Lipkin said in Tuesday’s meeting that a strength of the resolution “is that it doesn’t delve into issues of Israel.”
“I’m gonna politely suggest that we not make this about Israel,” Kaplan-Lipkin said, adding that “the pattern of anti Semitic instances mentioned … does not relate to Israel.”
Resolution co-sponsor Yaron Sternberg ’22 initially defended inclusion of the IHRA link in the resolution, noting that he has “had unsolicited anti-Israel rhetoric slung under my door three times” since arriving at Stanford.
“This past week we had something at our dorm where it was like, ‘unlikely Tinder matches,’” Sternberg said. “Next to my name they put Hamas, which is a terrorist organization that has literally endangered the lives of many of my family members.”
Sternberg authored a Feb. 4 Stanford Review article accusing SLE guest lecturer and Iranian scholar Abdolkarim Soroush of anti-Semitism after the lecturer told SLE students on Jan. 29 that millions of Jews “supposedly” died in the Holocaust. He also added in Tuesday’s meeting that he has been “asked to justify Israel’s actions” after mentioning that his name is Hebrew.
“I’m not even trying to make this like a political thing,” he added. “I definitely think [Stanford] has been a venue for people to do anti-Semitic things and put them under the guise of anti-Israeli things.”
Last quarter, a swastika was found etched into the lid of a piano in Bing Concert Hall.
Senator Gabe Rosen ’19 stressed the importance of not just the resolution’s definition of anti-Semitism but also its language regarding the actions that will be taken in order to ensure the safety of the Jewish community and other communities on Stanford’s campus.
“Nothing upsets me more than seeing not just the Jewish community, but all of the communities represented here, divided on something that should be so straightforward — that we stand together and say with one voice, ‘We think that this form of bigotry does not belong on this campus in any shape or form,’” Rosen said.
In Tuesday’s meeting, the Senate also approved a bill placing amendments to the Associated Students of Stanford University’s (ASSU) Constitution on the Spring Election Ballot, as well as a bill confirming Lark Wang ’20 as Senator Melissa Loupeda’s ’21 proxy while Loupeda spends spring quarter in New York. Additionally, the Senate addressed the ASSU Elections Commission rejection of incoming coterminal student Khaled Aounallah’s ’19 Undergraduate Senate candidacy, given that he will be graduating in the spring.
Student Activities and Life Director Nanci Howe noted that a decision has yet to be made regarding Aounallah’s eligibility, saying that “it needs more discussion.” Tuesday’s discussion was closed to allow Senate Chair Leya Elias ’21 to gather more information from the Elections Commission.
“Generally speaking, a fifth-year senior is considered a graduate student,” Howe said.
After the meeting, Elias sent The Daily a statement regarding the unexcused absences of Senator Tyra Nicolay ’21, which have surpassed the threshold allowed for a member of the Senate.
“I have noticed the unexcused absences and am in the process of reaching out to her to have a conversation regarding the absences,” Elias wrote.
This article has been corrected to note that Jacob Kaplan-Lipkin is in the class of 2019, not 2020, and to clarify in one instance that Matthew Wigler removed the link to the IHRA definition, not the definition itself, from the resolution. The Daily regrets these errors.
Contact Holden Foreman at hs4man21 ‘at’ stanford.edu.