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Assembly passes anti-Palestinian racism bill, social media users respond

The newly elected 18th Assembly passed "A Resolution to Counteract Anti-Palestinian Racism" after one hour of deliberation around phrasing and voting rights. – Photo by Alex Kenney

On April 18, the Rutgers University Student Assembly's newly passed "A Resolution to Counteract Anti-Palestinian Racism," a bill that was introduced but ultimately tabled on April 11.

This meeting was also the first under the newly inducted 18th Assembly, headed by Assembly President Jack Ramirez, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, Assembly Vice President Kaia Dyckman, a School of Arts and Sciences junior and Assembly Treasurer Sam Meizys, a Rutgers Business School sophomore.

At approximately 10:30 p.m., after introductory rounds of internal elections for the new Assembly, it moved forward to voting procedure on legislation, including the "Bill to Authorize Fall 2024 Funding Allocation" and the anti-Palestinian racism resolution, according to the meeting agenda.

The anti-Palestinian racism bill was presented again by its co-authors, Academic Affairs Chair Fauzan Amjad, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, Livingston Representative Ziad Burghli, a Rutgers Business School first-year and Pharmacy Governing Council Internal Vice President Omar Abuattieh, an Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy sophomore.

"I want to make it absolutely clear — absolutely clear — that when we are advocating for one group of people, we are not infringing or stripping the rights of a different person or a different group," Abuattieh said after Amjad's presentation.

He added that his mother, a Gaza-born Rutgers alum, was told by her professor that Palestine does not exist, to give context for the longevity of such perspectives and remarks. He said incidents like these call for a formal definition of anti-Palestinian discrimination.

A subsequent motion to pass the bill and accept all amendments was objected by School of Engineering Representative Raquel Shapiro, a School of Engineering junior.

The objection then required standard debate procedure where voting members of the Assembly would speak for and against the bill, at which an Assembly member motioned to suspend Standing Rule 3.4, as was done in the April 11 meeting, as previously reported by The Daily Targum. The suspension of this rule permits members of the public to speak in debate.

Assembly members then spoke for and against the suspension for 30 seconds at a time. Those for it said that members of the public could bring novel insight to the discussion, while those against it claimed that doing so would be redundant and time-consuming.

The motion was passed, and the Assembly entered a similar debate format to vote on the bill including the amendment.

In one speech, an Assembly member modified the existing amendment to add "simply for being Palestinian" to the end of the Arab Canadian Lawyers Association's (ACLA) list of examples of slander.

After being asked to discuss the point with the bill's authors, the debate continued. During voting, some Assembly members attempted to pause the vote to introduce an additional amendment. The vote continued, with the bill passing with 15 "Yes" votes and three "No" votes, followed by a positive uproar in the room.

"I appreciate everyone coming out here tonight voicing their opinions. That's what student government's about, so thank you, guys," Dyckman said.

Social media users in and outside of the University community have since commented on the passing of the bill.

The Students for Justice in Palestine at Rutgers—New Brunswick (SJP) announced the Assembly's vote passing the bill in an Instagram post, noting that the Assembly is the first student governmental body to formally define anti-Palestinian racism.

The ACLA, whose definition of anti-Palestinian racism served as the framework for the bill and also spurred the most discussion among Assembly members, reposted SJP's announcement about it on the social media platform X.

"Congrats to (SJP) on passing a bill on anti-Palestinian racism," the ACLA's post read. "Critical work at a time of extreme censorship and reprisals against Palestinians and allies on university campuses."

The group referenced another X post by Sylvia Chan-Malik, an associate professor in the Department of American Studies, praising students. Chan-Malik added Rutgers to a list including Columbia University, Barnard College, the University of Southern California, Pitzer College, Brown University and others.

David Álvarez, a professor in the English Department at Grand Valley State University, also engaged with Chan-Malik's post.

"May it be the first of many more as the student movement goes from strength to strength!" his post read.

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