SGO Meeting 2.17.19

On Sunday, February 17th, 2019, members of Student Government Organization (SGO) gathered for their weekly meeting. The meeting agenda included approval of funding requests, last week’s vote on Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP)’s Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) proposal, and a presentation from staff members about the new Sharples project.

On the topic of BDS, the President and Vice President of SGO gave SGO members (and people not in SGO in attendance at the meeting), a chance to voice their comments, questions, and concerns about last week’s vote. Executive board members agreed that their conversation about BDS would be ongoing, and likely several weeks long, in order to properly address all parts of the issue. Many members noted issues with the unclear and confusing process by which the vote was reached, drawing attention to the vote as a “learning experience” from which to improve. Several members also emphasized that SGO has never voted on an issue of as much “magnitude” as BDS, and thus, SGO does not have a framework in place that is able to support a conversation about something of this nature. Other members agreed, suggesting that SGO re-evaluate its “institutional framework” and refer back to its bylaws. Many also questioned the notion that SGO is “apolitical” and suggested a reevaluation of this framework as well. Questions like “who do we represent?” and “what does it mean to be apolitical?” were raised.

Several SGO members also referenced the inconsistency present in the fact that SJP was barred from a vote about its own proposal, while a member of Swarthmore Students for Israel (SSFI) was allowed to speak at much of the meeting preceding the vote. SGO members agreed that this was an oversight, and agreed to further discuss the notion of inequitable “outside bias” affecting votes. Many SGO members said they did not know that SJP was barred from attending, prompting a discussion about miscommunication and lack of communication among SGO as a body.

There was also a discussion about transparency of votes. Many expressed concerns about the lack of transparency with private voting, while many others raised concerns about protecting already vulnerable SGO members who have a stake in the issue and may be at risk if their votes were to be made public. Because a non-SGO member was present at what was supposed to be a private vote, questions were raised about whether to reconsider the vote. Members also discussed how notions of privacy and transparency manifest in debates and discussions that occur prior to votes.

In discussing a re-vote, SGO members emphasized that last week’s vote was only a rejection of releasing the exact statement written by SJP, and proposed that SGO come to a consensus and write its own statement on the matter. SGO members agreed that they want to be accountable to students, and offered suggestions like publishing meeting agendas so the general student body can be aware of what is being discussed when, and holding regular “town hall” meetings where students can come voice concerns.

SGO’s conversation about BDS is ongoing. No consensus was reached about whether to re-vote, and/or release its own statement.


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