Controversial Sabra hummus bill dominates discussion during ASUCR meeting

Courtesy of Thomas Holguin/HIGHLANDER
Courtesy of Thomas Holguin/HIGHLANDER

ASUCR’s first state of the association meeting of the quarter began at 6:15 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 18 in the Tartan and Tweed Room in the Student Services Building. The room change was made to accommodate a larger-than-usual audience that was expected to discuss senate resolution W17-007. If passed, the resolution would call upon UCR to discontinue the sale of Sabra hummus around campus due to its parent company, the Strauss Group, which makes donations to the Golani brigade of the Israeli military. Other bills on the docket included one discussing senate transparency —  SB W17-021 the support of free speech on campus — SR W17-008 and various general amendments to the ASUCR bylaws.

First, CHASS Senator Aram Ayrapetyan took the floor to discuss a resolution that he authored, SR W17-008, as he would be leaving that night to attend the UC Board of Regents meeting in San Francisco, in which the 2017-18 tuition increase would be voted on. Ayrapetyan began by expressing his concerns over the need for safe, political inclusivity at UCR all the while citing the cancellation of Suzanne Venker’s presentation at Williams College and Ben Shapiro’s presentation at CSULA, due to student protests and the multiple disruptions at UCR when Senator Hillary Clinton came to speak for her presidential campaign, as examples of how some political views are being attacked. “It (the bill) is reaffirming that this campus is a safe space for students of all backgrounds and not just of a certain background,” he explained. Discussion over the resolution took place before it was ultimately tabled until the next senate meeting, in order for Ayrapetyan to gather his sources for presentation. SB W17-021 was also tabled.

The floor was then opened up for public forum. First to speak was fourth-year political science and law and society major, as well as the runner-up in last year’s presidential elections and next-in-line presidential alternative, Arturo Gomez. Gomez asked Executive Vice President Wen-Yu Chou why he, as the presidential alternative, had not been contacted after President Shafi Karim was placed on automatic leave. Chou responded, “This is a personnel matter regarding a certain individual and against FERPA rules and we are not allowed to discuss anything pertaining to personnel matters.” Gomez and Chou agreed to meet once the senate meeting concluded.

Following public forum, discussion on SR W17-007 began, which would show support for the removal of Sabra brand hummus from being sold at UCR. Each side was allotted 20 minutes to make their arguments and another 10 to summarize their arguments with no time to be added. Before either side could speak, the resolution was tabled, as it had not yet passed through the legislative review committee. However, the resolution still remained open for discussion on the floor.

Those supporting the passage of the resolution were the first to speak. UCR’s Students for Justice in Palestine Vice President and author of the resolution Arman Azedi raised the human rights element as to why the resolution should be passed. He also cited events, such as Irvine 11, where members of UC Irvine’s Muslim Student Union were formally charged for disrupting a speech by an Israeli ambassador, to give an example of discrimination toward pro-Palestine students.

Opponents of the resolution then spoke. One speaker called the resolution full of “fake news” and “alternative facts,” citing that the four universities mentioned in the resolution to have divested from Sabra — Princeton University, DePaul University, University of Massachusetts-Amherst and Ottawa University — never actually took Sabra off the shelves. The speaker stated that these universities either never passed the divestment or had the ruling later overturned. Later on, Azedi acknowledged this, stating that since Tuesday, Jan. 24, the decision of universities listed in the resolution have been changed. Other members of the opposition made the argument that if Sabra was taken off the shelves, then it could potentially harm vegan students as well as students that keep halal and kosher, as it would exclude these groups. The supporters of the resolution responded by stating that there would be an alternative hummus brand to replace Sabra should it pass.  

After the Sabra hummus discussion was complete, second-year public policy major Julia Schemmer told The Highlander, “I think that a lot of dialogue happened in this space and I hope that it can continue for both sides to see where we are at so that we can create policy that meets in the middle.”

Third-year international affairs and ethnic studies major, as well as a supporter of the resolution, Dinah Muhammad, commented on the possibility of future dialogue saying, “It’s very one-sided in terms of the power structure. Dialoguing serves to educate one side rather than having actual effective communication.”

As the meeting continued, the four bills proposing general amendments to the constitution were passed unanimously as follows:

  • SB W17-016, which replaces the title, “Regulations on Resolutions” with “The Legislative Process”
  • SB W17-017, which defines the requirements for a senate meeting and an executive branch meeting to take place
  • SB W17-018, which changed the title of vote director to civic engagement director
  • SB W17-019, which added the chief justice to the bylaws because of changes to the annual budget

At the close of the meeting, Chou informed the senate on the current status of Karim’s presidency, stating, “It is an automatic leave and the projects that he was working on will be split between the members of the executive cabinet.” Also briefly discussed was SB W17-020, a bill that addresses the procedures that ASUCR should take in the events of a member going on automatic leave, before being tabled.

*Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article mistakenly stated that amendments would be made to the ASUCR constitution, when actually amendments were to be made to the ASUCR bylaws. The version also wrongly named the vote director position as vice director. The proper changes have since been made. The Highlander regrets the error.

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