Undergraduate Student Government members discuss divestment bill, removal of Sen. Parra

Undergraduate Student Government Senator Smith supports Senator Singh's motion to remove Senator Parra from the university affairs chair. Senator Singh cited poor communication as a primary reason for the motion. (Photo by Andrew Ybanez) Undergraduate Student Government Senator Smith supports Senator Singh's motion to remove Senator Parra from the university affairs chair. Senator Singh cited poor communication as a primary reason for the motion. (Photo by Andrew Ybanez)

A packed room filled MU 207 at Tuesday night's Undergraduate Student Government Tempe 10th regular session as a variety of organizations spoke out against Senate Bill 67, a resolution to divest from Caterpillar Inc. for its so-called human rights abuses in Palestine.

The bill was introduced by College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Sen. Richard Moorhead and Herberger Institute of Design and the Arts Sen. Michael Arcaro.

Moorhead announced the bill and said calling it a divestment from Israel or anti-Israel is incorrect.



He reiterated that ASU students have a responsibility to know where their money is going.

Aman Aberra of Student Justice for Palestine said the bill is asking for divestment from one organization, Caterpillar, which has been called out before for illegal activities.

"What we want to do is call out and boycott one company, Caterpillar, for illegal activities," Aberra said.

Loyola University passed a similar bill earlier today by a margin of 20-0-2, Aberra said.

Sen. Will Smith suggested the bill be tabled indefinitely, which was immediately objected to but put to a vote where the tabling was passed.

The bill has been tabled indefinitely, which means the bill will no longer be discussed, and no vote was taken.

Sen. Samantha Singh called for Nicolas Parra to step down as University Affairs Committee Chairman.

Smith said he realized Parra needed to step down at the last meeting when a diversity bill was proposed, but no one was given the bill to review, and because there was no work done on the bill in committee, the senate was not able to catch serious errors within.

He also said the committee had not been receiving agendas.

Sen. Jordan Hibbs called the situation dirty politics and said the situation should have been discussed inside committee and not during the meeting.

Hibbs then called out committee members saying it was "disgraceful."

Singh said the call for Parra to step down has nothing to do with him being a good senator but his conduct within the University Affairs office.

"Without a leader, (the committee members) are a blind committee," she said.

Moorhead said the blame for how the diversity bill was brought up does not lie solely on Parra and the situation could have been made more cohesive.

Parra said he was blindsided and that he takes pride in his work.

"I put my heart and soul into this, because I want ASU to be the best it can be," Parra said, holding back tears. "I will do anything and everything I can to make the students of ASU voices heard."

Smith said the situation was difficult for him but he wouldn't be asking for Parra to step down if there wasn't a reason and said Parra now knows how the committee feels and a change needs to be made.

"We said that we agreed a diversity bill was a good idea but between that agreement and the senate meeting we didn't see anything until the bill was proposed," Smith said.

Hibbs pointed out that this call for Parra's dismissal falls upon the second day of his campaign for USG president.

Singh agreed that Parra is a good senator but not a good leader of the University Affairs Committee.

Singh said she had spoken to Parra before the meeting about the situation.

Sen. Ao Jiao made a call to the audience asking if anyone had been helped by Parra. Multiple members of Sun Devil’s for Israel raised their hands in acknowledgment.

Sen. Tristian Trevino asked for a tabling of the discussion until the next meeting because it was so sudden.

"This is something we need to discuss and have senators get a general feel and talk to more people and more clubs to make a better decision," he said.

Jiao said he doesn't see a way to fix the miscommunication and misconduct.

Parra asked the senate to raise their hands if they had ever received an agenda with only two members responding.

Parra called the entire situation "very political" and said it is very easy to see that.

Senate President Alexis Gonzalez said during a call for clarification that Singh had come to her and addressed her concerns that were presented at the meeting tonight.

Smith said the term "dirty politics" had been thrown around during the meeting, but it was him who had brought up the idea with Samantha Singh and that they didn't really have a dog in the campaign fight, so "dirty politics" was in no way a part of this situation.

Hibbs read an email Parra had sent to his fellow senate members recognizing the growth they had all achieved throughout the year and promoted encouragement of each other and to keep the momentum going and finish the year out strong.

Hibbs once again called the situation dirty politics and announced to the senate that she was the campaign manager for Parra's USG presidential run and that earlier in the day she had been spoken to by her committee chair about being removed from her position.

In the email, Parra also recognized his faults and owned up to them as he again praised the senators for their work.

Shelby Lynn-Dunkel of the Womyn’s Coalition stood up for Parra saying while he did miss a meeting he said he would attend with her organization, he stayed in contact and has helped them with any issues they have had in the recent past.

The motion was called to a hand vote after over an hour of discussion where the motion failed 8-7 with 3 abstaining.

Discussion opened back up about the proposed Senate Bill 67, where Aberra once again spoke and said he felt embarrassed for the senate as they had an hour and a half debate about internal issues but tabled the bill immediately without any discussion.

"It should have been able to at least have been discussed and debated," he said. "I believe that even the people who disagree with me on this bill would agree that the bill should have been discussed."

Emerson Fellow Jared Hirschl said the bill was a such a big topic that he would like to talk the issue out individually and not burden the USG with the situation.

USG President Jordan Davis said the budget for next year is being finalized and is seeking any input from senators for anything that may need to be added.

An event next Tuesday at 6 p.m. will be Stephen A. Smith of ESPN speaking at the Sun Devil Fitness Complex.

Isabelle Murray, president of LGBTQA Coalition, announced a national day of silence on April 11 and asked for students to wear black or red and not speak outside of class during that day because people around the world are being silenced every day.

Reach the reporter at jshanco2@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @joey_hancock

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