Student court rules discrimination against Jews is unacceptable

 

MADISON – A student court delivered a stern rebuke in May, to campus activists who are accused of discriminating against Jewish students to ram anti-Israel legislation through the student government approval process.

A panel of four student justices at the University of Wisconsin – Madison ruled that “Jewish students were the subject of discrimination by their elected representatives.”

The Wednesday, May 10 summary judgement of the Student Judiciary of Associated Students of Madison held that at least one student must publically apologize and state why Passover is important to the Jewish community. Other students are also advised to apologize.

According to the court, student government member Ariela Rivkin emailed Student Council Chair Carmen Gosey to ask that “human rights mechanisms or transparency on investment policy” not be considered at a meeting that fell during Passover. She reportedly explained that observant Jewish members of student government would not be able to attend the meeting and provide input on an issue of importance to members of the Jewish community.

Yet at that April 12 meeting, a bylaw change was proposed to create a “Financial Transparency and Ethics Subcommittee” to look into the University of Wisconsin-Madison Foundation.

The legislation would normally not be eligible for a vote until the next business meeting. But Rep. Katrina Morrison motioned to suspend the rules, according to the student court. A council member did raise concern that this would exclude Jewish students, due to the conflict with Passover. This was reportedly ignored, with a motion to suspend the rules passing 15-4 with two abstentions and the legislation itself passing with a 15-0 vote, with one abstention.

“This is unacceptable, and future sessions are warned that the Judiciary will not tolerate the hypocrisy of a student government that claims to be a voice for students, while simultaneously discriminating against and silencing their constituents,” the court opinion states.

The student government constitution bars discrimination based on religion and the court has the authority to enforce that, the court noted.

“Representative Morrison is mandated to read her apology letter before Student Council at the first meeting of the 24th session during the 2017 fall semester. If the apology … is not read to the body, the Judiciary will be required to take further action, up to and including suspension of Representative Morrison, until the requirements of this order are met,” writes the court. “It is highly encouraged that members of the 23rd session who voted to waive the legislation introduction requirement also issue apologies to the Jewish students who they discriminated against during the April 12th meeting.”

The court also voided the attempted creation of the “Financial Transparency and Ethics Subcommittee.”

In a phone interview, student Yogev Ben-Yitschak of Bayside indicated he was “a little bit relieved” when he learned of the ruling. On social media, he said, “There’s a lot of excited people.”

But he cautioned, “It doesn’t cancel anything that happened on April 26.”

Unethical, intimidating and undemocratic tactics preceded the approval of a Student Council resolution critical of Israel that day, according to pro-Israel students at University of Wisconsin – Madison.

Ben-Yitschak will be part of student government in the next academic year. He said a small group of students have been responsible for pushing through anti-Israel measures, with disregard for Jewish concerns.

“Most of the school wasn’t involved in this,” he said, adding that some students voted against their better judgement because they were intimidated. He said he even still considers Katrina Morrison a friend.

“I’m still looking forward to next year,” he said. “We’re going to do great things.”