The Marquette University Student Government Senate passed a resolution supporting the boycott, divest and sanction movement against Israel on April 25, 2022, in a unanimous vote of those present.
“Given the current climate of increased antisemitism and isolation that many Jewish students experience on various college campuses and given the current antisemitic attacks that the local Jewish community is experiencing, we are deeply concerned about the passage of a BDS resolution by the Marquette Student Government and would be disappointed to see it gain further traction,” said Kai Gardner Mishlove, director of the local Jewish Community Relations Council of Milwaukee Jewish Federation, in a statement.
It is not clear if the resolution has been formally enacted, because Student Government President Bridgeman Flowers’ signature is required, and he has not responded to the Chronicle’s requests for comment.
According to Student Government Outreach Vice President Ryan Lardner, senators from the racial justice and equity and student life committees worked to draft the resolution.
Though the resolution was passed unanimously by those present, Lardner said at least one senator expressed opposition to the resolution, but they were not in attendance at the vote. No Jewish organization was consulted about the resolution, according to Lardner.
“I think that we could have made a better effort to invite more Jewish students to come and see the legislative vote because I think that it’s very important that we hear both sides,” Lardner said.
In a statement released by Hillel Milwaukee, the Jewish student organization expressed that they were “deeply disappointed” in the Senate vote. Hillel Milwaukee serves students at several area Jewish campuses, including Marquette University.
“Singling out and blaming one party in a complex geopolitical conflict is detrimental to peace and removes the ability for effective dialogue,” the statement read. “We will continue to support peace and honest dialogue, and work for a more peaceful and safe campus, community and Jewish homeland.”
Marquette University Professor Andrea Schneider had no knowledge that the resolution was in progress until after it was passed by the Senate. The resolution was promoted by student supporters of the BDS message.
“Their point is not to have consultation, their point is not to bring in Jewish voices, and their point is not to bring in and to hear why this might be problematic,” Schneider said, who is a law professor and is active in the local Jewish community.
In 2015, Schneider worked with a group of Jewish students to prevent a boycott, divest and sanction bill from being enacted at Marquette.
“It feels a little bit like whack-a-mole,” Schneider said. “It’s back, and it’s a new group of students who don’t know that we spent a lot of time and energy educating student leaders the last time around.”
Michaela Bear, who earned both her undergraduate degree in 2017 and law degree in 2020 from Marquette, fought against a similar resolution in 2015. At the time, she felt it was damaging to the progress the small Jewish community was making at Marquette, which makes up approximately one percent of undergraduates, according to Hillel International.
“It brought up antisemitic rhetoric and it made me personally very uncomfortable to be on campus. I felt unsafe. I felt targeted,” Bear said. “The movement itself is not overtly antisemitic, but the rhetoric and the support that follows, from my perspective, brought so much hatred and divisiveness and chants that encompassed antisemitism, that I no longer felt welcomed in the place I chose to make my community.”
Schneider believes the resolution unfairly singles out Israel and that it is likely the students drafting the proposal and voting on it have never been to Israel or have firsthand experience with the country.
“It’s a hollow public relations victory for (Students for Justice in Palestine), but the result is it makes Jewish students uncomfortable, and when these votes happen, there is increased antisemitism on campus,” Schneider said. “Marginalized groups, Muslims and Jews, are far more productive when we are working together to combat racism and white supremacy.”
Mishlove, of the Jewish Community Relations Council, said her organization recognizes the right of anyone to hold and speak diverse opinions that others may dislike or find offensive, especially on the most contentious issues.
“Even within the Jewish community there are extremely diverse opinions on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Criticism of Israeli policies is legitimate,” she added. “Unfortunately, the BDS movement often promotes a hostile environment that lacks civility and respect for the nuance and diversity of opinion regarding the state of Israel and the suffering of Palestinians, Israelis and others.”
“We continue to partner with Hillel and others in assisting Marquette to ensure a campus environment that is inclusive and safe for all students, including Jewish students and others who support respectful discourse regarding Israel and Palestine. The solution to a complicated geopolitical conflict thousands of miles away does not lie in a campaign designed to make segments of the campus community feel unsafe, polarize communities, dehumanize dissent, and prevent honest discourse between groups on campus.”