SGA will not pass a definition of anti-Semitism this term

ELLIE ALLEN | NEWS EDITOR | emallen2@butler.edu

On Oct. 21, the Student Government Association passed resolution 2021-026, which denounced anti-Semitism, but did not include a definition of what constitutes anti-Semitism or discrimination. The resolution also stated that SGA will not address the definition of anti-Semitism again this term.

The new resolution came after resolution 2021-021 received backlash from several Butler organizations and Indianapolis community groups. This backlash was due to the proposed adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism.

Natalie Urban, a junior gender women and sexuality studies, creative writing and Spanish triple major, is the internal affairs director for Student for Justice in Palestine. She said the groups joined SJP’s statement disagreeing with resolution 2021-021 because they believe that oppressed groups must work together to attain equality. Urban also said SJP and the groups who signed the statement felt that the resolution would prevent them from criticizing Israel, which would limit their free speech.

“It conflates anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism as the same thing, which is problematic because as Students for Justice in Palestine, we’re fighting for liberation for the Palestinian people, which means that there will be critique of Israel within that, simply because that’s the conflict,” Urban said. “That doesn’t make us anti-Semitic, it means that we are critiquing the global power. So that was kind of our feelings on [resolution 2021-021] was it was going to put a limit on our ability to organize, and it was going to put a limit on our free speech as a student organization.”

After debate, resolution 2021-021 was struck from the Senate floor, and resolution 2021-026 was passed.

Will Gigerich, a junior criminology major and speaker of the Senate, said SGA did not feel it was their place to implement a definition on anti-Semitism, so they did not pass resolution 2021-021.

“While I think it’s under the Senate’s purview to some extent, it’s not necessarily the purpose of the Senate to address these issues,” Gigerich said. “This is more of a university leadership type of issue. It’s something that I think us getting involved in makes it appear that we are only representing a portion of our student body, and that’s not something we want and that’s not something we intend to do.”

Gigerich said the change in resolutions came after there were several complaints filed with the Office of Student Affairs about resolution 2021-021. Gigerich said SGA wanted to make it clear that they denounce anti-Semitism, even though they could not pass a definition at this time.

“I think the overall goal was just to reaffirm support for the student body and make it known that number one SGA does condemn anti-Semitism,” Gigerich said. “We obviously recognize that is an issue and one that is rising in this country and something that needs to be addressed, but also, recognizing that adopting a definition or doing anything such as that would be potentially limiting to other members of our campus community that would potentially harm their free speech and their ability to operate other organizations on this campus.” 

Gigerich said SGA will not readdress this issue until a new group of senators is selected, as the subject has already taken up a lot of the Senate’s time. 

“For the last three weeks, so roughly a third of all of our senate meetings this semester, have been taken up on the issue of BDS, anti-Semitism and trying to find some way for us to address this,” Gigerich said. “It’s kind of realizing that there’s other things we have to take care of as well, and it’s probably not the most sustainable thing for us to continue to hash this out on the Senate floor when frankly, it doesn’t necessarily have a place there.” 

Many Jewish students on Butler’s campus expressed hurt and anger over this decision. Michael Uretzky, a senior marketing major and member of Hillel, a Jewish organization at Butler, attended the SGA meeting to voice why he feels a definition of anti-Semitism needs to be adopted.

Uretzky said he left the meeting feeling upset and silenced. 

“We left the meeting quite heartbroken, frustrated, and we felt alone, honestly, on this campus and we’re very disappointed that the student body, SGA, didn’t have our backs,” Uretzky said. 

Lily Wallack, a junior English and anthropology major and member of Hillel, also said the outcome of the SGA meeting was disappointing.

“Overall, it was emotionally draining for everybody that was there, and I left it feeling just really hurt, and unheard, and just kind of isolated,” Wallack said. 

Urban said she felt the meeting was stressful, but she was happy that Gina Forrest, executive director of diversity, equity and inclusion, and Daniel Meyers, director of the Center for Faith and Vocation, were there, so students knew they had somewhere to go if they were upset by the outcome. 

“I think the senators were very overwhelmed,” Urban said. “They were getting hit by every side with so many things with so much information. They were being asked to understand a very complicated issue in a very short period of time.”

Some students had a particular problem with the fact that SGA would not be addressing the issue again until next year. Wallack said that was the most hurtful part of the meeting.

“We didn’t want that in there because anti-Semitism is on the rise, all around the world, which is why it’s important to discuss this,” Wallack said. “That’s just silencing it, which can help strengthen anti-Semitism, and they did this. They kept this line in because they said that they spent too much time on this issue already, and they needed time for other important things, which is really hurtful because they aren’t the ones that are Jewish.”

Urban, on the other hand, felt this stipulation would take the pressure off of SGA.

“So much was asked of those senators, they were asked to understand very complicated issues in so little time, so I think in the end that things worked out in a good way,” Urban said. “I think taking this off Senate’s plate was a very good idea. Senate only has so much time they have so many things to deal with, and this was probably a little bit above what they necessarily have the capacity to deal with.”

Uretzky said SGA did allow the Jewish community to create a new definition, but he said they asked too much of the Jewish community in trying to come up with a new definition. 

“We were not given a lot of time to get together and discuss it, and they wanted us to not only to discuss it with other groups, but to compromise on a definition that didn’t make them feel bad, or come off as offensive to them,” Uretzky said. “We were confused as to why, and other groups don’t have to consult with others about what hate speech is to them. Why are we the exception?”

Uretzky said the next step for the Jewish community is to meet with the administration.

“It was not the result we’re looking for, and we’re not done,” Uretzky said. “Obviously, we will continue to fight for Jewish rights on campus and voices of Jewish students to be heard.”

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