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February 8, 2019 1:36 pm

University of Oregon Student Court Strikes Down ‘Unconstitutional’ BDS Resolution

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Lillis Business Complex at the University of Oregon. Photo: Visitor7 via wiki commons.

A resolution passed by the University of Oregon’s student senate last year that endorsed the controversial boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel has been deemed “unconstitutional.”

In a ruling this week, the judicial branch of the Associated Students of the University of Oregon (ASUO) determined that the legislation did not comply with a “viewpoint-neutral” position, which public universities must adhere to when administering student fees, the student-run Daily Emerald reported on Thursday.

The resolution also separately breaches two parts of the ASUO constitution, the court found — namely section 2.3, which bans the ASUO from “abridging the privileges and immunities of any person or program” under school, state, and federal laws; and section 2.4, which forbids withholding access to activities supported by student fees “for reasons of sex, race, religion, age, sexual orientation, marital status, handicap, political view, national origin or any other extraneous considerations.”

These sections bind the ASUO to abide by the US constitution and render the BDS resolution invalid, the court argued.

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The ruling came after ASUO Senate President Montserrat “Montse” Mendez-Higuera filed a motion for clarification with the court in October, several months after the BDS measure was passed in May with a vote of 12 in favor and six against.

Introduced by Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights (SUPER) and endorsed by 30 groups — among them the school’s Multicultural Center and associations representing Arab, Native American, Southeast Asian, Muslim, Vietnamese, LGBTQA, and intersectional feminist students — the bill called on ASUO to blacklist products and divest from several companies over their ties to Israel.

Weeks later, a welcome sign belonging to the university’s Hillel Jewish campus group was vandalized with pro-Palestinian profanity, including the message, “Free Palestine you f*cks.”

Hillel expressed optimism over the court’s recent ruling, thanking the UO administration for its support and reaffirming its stance that the Palestinian-led BDS campaign — whose leaders openly reject the Jewish people’s right to national self-determination — “divides our campus” and “offers no solution to the conflict or support for peaceful resolutions.”

At the time that the resolution was initially debated, some of its opponents warned that it may be struck down for constitutional violations — a concern shared by some supporters of the bill, who nonetheless urged its passage on symbolic grounds.

“Everyone who’s worked on this thinks that this is … largely a matter of solidarity, rather than actually withholding funds from Sabra hummus,” said Senator Keegan Williams-Thomas.

Following the measure’s passage, UO President Michael Schill applauded the “respectful manner” in which students debated the issue, but cautioned that it “contradicts the ASUO mission to support the interests of all students in a diverse community.”

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