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Pro-Palestine students pack SGA Senate meeting

Students pack the Senate meeting on Monday, April 29.  |  Raphael Fernandez/The Cougar

The Student Government Association passed resolutions that called for the divestment of UH funds from companies that provide arms and support to Israel in their war in Palestine and condemned the Texas governor’s executive order.  

Around 70 students attended the meeting and expressed their support for the resolutions coordinated by Students for Justice in Palestine HTX. The Senate unanimously passed both bills.

“The events of this past week underscore the importance of these bills,” said biochemistry senior Gabi Lansagnan, referring to the clashes between students and administrators at the University of Texas at Austin and Columbia University. “We would like for everyone in this room to remember that despite the heightened repression, students have been showing up in masses with the full intention of speaking out for Gaza and Palestine.”

The Divest from Death resolution requested the Board of Regents hear and vote on a proposal to divest the University endowment fund from companies that provide material support to Israel. The Board of Regents will meet on May 15.

The other resolution, Condemning Executive Order No. GA-44, called upon the University administration to refuse to comply with the governor’s executive order and implored the University to draft a statement condemning it.

After the Senate passed the resolutions, the crowd of students who supported the bills erupted in cheers and chanted “Free Free Palestine.”

Calls for the divestment of UH funds from such companies are not new for the SGA. Previous administrations also created legislation advocating for the same issues.

Support for these two resolutions comes not only from the Senate but from the executive cabinet, with President Diego Arriaga expressing his admiration for the students who supported the bills.

“It gives me joy and pride to see all the student body here tonight in support of these resolutions,” Arriaga said. 

Arriaga drafted his own executive order that condemns Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order and urges the Board of Regents to consider divestment from companies that support Israel.

The administration also held a fundraiser event a few weeks ago for the benefit of Doctors Without Borders, a charity that provides medical care for civilians in Palestine. The administration raised over $400 in support for the charity, said Chief of Staff Daniela Gonzalez.

The Senate and executive refrained from singing the University Alma Mater, a staple in SGA meetings. The Senate said their refusal to partake in the tradition expressed their frustration with the University’s support for Israel through its endowment fund.

“I appreciate my colleagues in the Senate for sitting down with me and protesting the Alma Mater,” said Sen. Jesus Nieto. “I decided not to recite the Alma Mater because I believe it is not just to be showing pride at this moment when this university is investing in war.”

The meeting also saw the first reading of another resolution that would recognize the SGA Muslim Caucus, a body of senators who would advocate for Muslim students and create legislation that would address their concerns.

“I’m just really happy to be represented,” said nursing senator Salma Zeidat, who is of Palestinian descent. “These bills were way overdue. It makes me so emotional to see the student body ask for such a change.”

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