URBANA — Six University of Illinois administrators and a campus Jewish organization quickly criticized a newly-adopted Illinois Student Government resolution calling on the UI to divest from its own police department and those of Champaign and Urbana, as well as corporations it said are contributing to human-rights violations.
The resolution, adopted Wednesday night, chronicles interactions between local police and Black residents dating to 2009 and states that the calls for divestment from police “stem from recent abuses by university and local police forces in Urbana-Champaign.”
It also states the morals and priorities of the UI’s Urbana campus reside in its investments in “fossil fuels, the prison industrial complex, the military industrial concept, the Israeli occupation and police departments.”
“UIUC’s investment in companies involved in human-rights violations and violations of international law, including the confiscation and destruction of Palestinian lands, criminalization of immigrants and communities of color and environmental racism, make the UIUC complicit in these crimes,” the resolution states.
Rabbi Dovid Tiechtel, executive director of Illini Chabad, said his organization was “deeply disappointed” by the action taken by student government group and said it should be called out for what it is, anti-Semitism and a “BDS vote.”
He was referring to the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, which says it “works to end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law.”
The student-government resolution was written purely to back students into a corner, Tiechtel said.
“Students should never have to choose between standing up for social and racial justice while also having to shed their Jewish identity and their connection to the Jewish homeland to do so,” he said. “Fighting for the rights of one marginalized community should not come at the expense of another marginalized group.”
A statement released by UI Chancellor Robert Jones and five other university administrators said Illinois Student Government is an independent organization that can pass nonbinding resolutions on any topic it chooses.
“It is unfortunate that a resolution before the group tonight (Wednesday) was designed to force students who oppose efforts to divest from Israel to also vote against support for the Black Lives Matter movement,” Jones and other administrators said.
They went on to say the resolution includes several points on which university administration can agree, “but a foundational value of this institution is inclusion, and this resolution includes language that we cannot and will not support.”
The resolution further called on Jones to create a task force charged with “divesting from corporations and index funds that violate human rights and reinvest in socially and environmentally responsible companies and index funds.”
It says the task force should include, but not be limited to, Associated Chancellor Robert Ellinger, who is also vice provost for budget and resource planning; Sean Garrick, vice chancellor for diversity, equity and inclusion; and at least one student representative from Students for Justice in Palestine, Students for Environmental Concerns, the Graduate Employees’ Organization and Black Students for Revolution.
Tiechtel said the resolution and comments made during its adoption reflect continued anti-Semitism on campus, and it’s important for UI leaders and the community to help make Jewish students feel safe and supported.
“The good news is people can see what is going on,” he said. “The bad news is what is going on.”