Davis, other UC grad students vote yes on BDS
UC Davis, along with graduate-student workers at eight other University of California campuses, have voted to join the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.
UAW 2865, the local union that represents UCD’s graduate-student workers, announced the victory Wednesday in a news release, saying, in part, “The measure calls on the University of California to divest from companies involved in Israeli occupation and apartheid; the UAW International to divest from these same entities; the US government to end military aid to Israel.”
The release continued: “52 percent of voting members also pledged not to ‘take part in any research, conferences, events, exchange programs, or other activities that are sponsored by Israeli universities complicit in the occupation of Palestine and the settler-colonial policies of the state of Israel’ until such time as these universities take steps to end complicity with dispossession, occupation and apartheid.”
The only campuses to vote against BDS were UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara.
BDS caucus representative and UCD graduate student Tory Brykalski said this election generated the highest percentage of voters they’ve had on any ballot measure. BDS is the issue “that engaged our membership more than anything before,” she said.
That number, however, is difficult to pin down. The full tally from the vote taken on Dec. 4 was 1,411 in favor of joining BDS, and 749 against. A total of 203 votes were cast at UCD, which, according to Brykalski is about 33 percent of the approximately 600 eligible voters.
But the union represents some 13,000 graduate-student workers, systemwide. Graduate students reportedly could sign up to become union members at the polls, which could have increased the number of voters substantially.
The numbers are important because both the union and the opponents of BDS — specifically a student organization called Informed Grads — are claiming opposite outcomes. While UAW 2865 calls the results a landslide, because 65 percent of voters were in favor of joining the movement, Informed Grads issued a news release stating that “a small unrepresentative minority of UC graduate students” voted.
Specifically, the release said that “2,189 UC graduate students voted out of a total of over 52,000 potential voters.”
Brykalski said the union’s next steps will be to “live the vote,” which involves actions such as sending letters to the UC Office of the President asking for divestment from Israel, as well as letters to UAW international.
She also hopes the union can use “the momentum on this vote to raise awareness about the role of corporations” in UC education.
Additionally, Brykalski believes the “vote opens up academic freedom. Until yesterday, it has been swayed in the other direction,” meaning pro-Israeli discourse overshadows pro-Palestinian discussion.
“We have opened up the possibility for an open debate,” she said.
Luanne Lawrence, associate chancellor for strategic communications, pointed to a September letter from UC’s Office of the Provost to all chancellors regarding the issues surrounding academic freedom and expected codes of conduct by students and faculty. Lawrence said “the academic enterprise cannot be compromised,” and that the letter from UC is “an accurate statement of how all the campuses feel.”
The letter states, in part, that “students must be free in the classroom to express a wide range of viewpoints in accord with the standards of scholarly inquiry and relevance to the topic at hand.”
The directive also reminds UC affiliates that “the university should remain aloof from politics and never function as an instrument for the advance of partisan interest.”
To see the full BDS ballot wording, visit http://www.uaw2865.org/wp-content/uploads/BDSSampleBallot.pdf.
— Reach Tanya Perez at email@example.com or 530-747-8082. Follow her on Twitter at @enterprisetanya