Elise Gregg and Samuel Larreal | PantherNOW Staff
Dozens of students packed the senate chambers on Monday, pressuring senators to pass a resolution that will likely remain stuck until next semester.
The “Ceasefire Now!” resolution would support a humanitarian ceasefire in the Gaza strip and urge FIU to stand in solidarity with Palestinian students, as well as divest from corporations and weapons manufacturers.
The resolution, co-signed by Senate President Kaily LaChapelle, Chair of the Student Life and Academic Concerns Committee Daniel Salup-Cid, and SIPA senator Zahir Mansuri, has been wrapped in controversy, with many students demanding that the resolution pass this semester.
Over the last few weeks it’s inspired heated comments on social media as well as engagement from students taking different stances on the issue, all while the resolution creeps along the legislative process.
It was the main topic of discussion during the Nov. 20 senate meeting, where around 30 students attended the Zoom-only meeting to signal their support for the legislation, demanding that the Rules and Administration Committee add it to their meeting agenda.
That didn’t happen.
Over Thanksgiving break students, largely members of FIU’s Young Democratic Socialists of America, urged the committee to hold an emergency meeting.
That didn’t happen either.
For this resolution to enter Monday’s SGA agenda, the committee would have needed to hold an emergency meeting before the senate meeting started.
While the committee could discuss the resolution at their scheduled 6:00 p.m. meeting, the senate would still need to hold its own emergency meeting before winter break starts.
“Rules could have an emergency meeting later this week if they wanted, and then the senate could meet 48 hours after that this week or in theory next week to vote on it,” clarified SGA president Alex Sutton in text communications with PantherNOW, referencing SGA Statute 3007.5 in terms of rules for advancing legislation.
“Before the Senate can vote to adopt a piece of legislation it is required to have been read twice at two separate meetings of the Senate,” states the statute. “In lieu of the First Reading the Senate President may choose to email Senators a copy of the legislation no later than 48 hours before the Senate Meeting where it will be read.”
YDSA members and other students supporting of the “Ceasefire NOW” resolution in the student senate chambers | Samuel Larreal PantherNOW.
As a resolution, “Ceasefire Now!” calls on FIU to recognize and condemn Israel’s relations with Palestinians as genocide and human rights abuses, as well as divest from companies like Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
Its proponents are doing all they can to get it voted on this semester – including senate leadership.
Senate president Kaily LaChapelle appointed Hua Hui Vogel as Vice Chair of the Rules and Administration Committee on Saturday, Nov. 25, SGA president Alex Sutton confirmed with PantherNOW on Monday, Nov. 27.
The senate meeting on Nov. 27, which started ten minutes late due to lack of quorum, had the largest student attendance in the last three years according to Senate President Kaily LaChappelle.
Most of the student senators who attended the meeting remotely through Zoom.
“I’ve never seen this in the three years since I’ve been here,” said Senate President Kaily LaChappelle, referring to the droves of students both in support of and against the resolution who showed in person.
53 members of the public attended the senate meeting in person and around 50 others attended through Zoom.
Members of Hillel and other students protesting the resolution at the student senate chambers | Samuel Larreal, PantherNOW.
There were eight invited speakers, each given three minutes to speak. Despite a tense atmosphere as students held signs across the room all attendees remained in order through the meeting.
“Our hearts break for any innocent life lost in the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas. Whether Israeli or Palestinian, everyone has a right to life. I also want to express sorrow for the three Palestinian students shot in Vermont over the holiday weekend,” said John Warech, executive director of Hillel at FIU.
“There is a belief in this room that Jewish people are evil and up to something nefarious. That suggestion that we use the Holocaust, a genocide that killed 6 million of our family members, as some sort of weapon or excuse to murder others is atrocious.”
“As a Palestinian. I am simply disgusted, I’m disgusted at the apathy, I’m disgusted with the ignorance, I’m disgusted with the mistreatment of anyone who supports a free Palestine,” said Tara Mahmoud, biological science major and member of Students for Justice for Palestine, a student organization whose official chapters were recently disbanded but whose FIU chapter is not an official student organization.
“Thousands are under the rubble. How dare you say this isn’t time for this resolution? How dare you criticize this resolution? This does the absolute bare minimum. Recognizing Israel’s war,” Mahmound said.
“Prior to this meeting, senate president informed us that since this resolution has been introduced, that the SGA office has been bombarded with calls saying SGA is anti-semitic” YDSA Member Maria Franzblau siad.
“We also learned that FIU Hillel is appealing directly to President Jessell to have Senator Lachappelle removed from their post,” Franzblau said. Senate President Kaily LaChapelle is a co-signer and a major proponent of the “Ceasefire Now!’ resolution.
“I did spend the last few days receiving constant death threats,” LaChapelle said, “The words being used are ‘we want to exterminate you like our ancestors.’ And I am not Jewish, I’m not Palestianian but I am Armenian, and my grandfather is a survivor of the Armenian genocide, so I know what genocide is,” LaChapelle said.
During the meeting’s public forum several senators also discussed the role of the student government and the implications of bringing external politics inside the senate chambers.
“I feel for anybody who’s been caught up in this situation. It’s terrible on both sides. On both sides. And I think that SGA should not be making any political statements unless it is with both sides,” said Housing Senator Alexander Stone.
“If I wanted to make a political statement, I would have joined the FIU Young Democratic Young Democratic Socialists, I would have joined the FIU Young Republicans, but I personally don’t think that we should be making any political statements at all.”
“This is not a political issue anymore,” SIPA Senator Zahir Mansuri responded to Senator Stone. “No student should feel endangered for stating their opinion… we’re still now allowed to say that I stand to support these people and I want them to live.”
Ultimately, despite the clear stances from students in SGA, Hillel and YDSA, strong words didn’t lead to much as the resolution was not on the agenda and was not voted on during this senate meeting.
Though there is a possibility that a combination of emergency meetings from the Rules and Administration Committee and senate could allow for a vote this semester, the resolution will likely remain on hold until spring.