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The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

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The Orion

Government Affairs considers protest of Zionist speaker, criticism of Associated Students

On Thursday Associated Student Government Affairs Committee were introduced two added agenda items including the event hosted by Chico Hillel and a proposition to officially denounce White Supremacy. Photo credit: Kimberly Morales

A week after Israeli speaker Neil Lazarus was invited to campus, two added agenda items were brought to the Associated Students Government Affairs committee meeting Thursday.

Government Affairs considered a resolution to formally denounce white supremacy and examined last week’s event hosted by Chico Hillel, which stirred emotions of students who arrived to voice their questions and apprehensions.

The weekly committee meeting first discussed an Activity Fee Fund Capital Expenditure Report and making announcements including resignations and the outcomes of events such as the moonlight campus walk and “Swipe Against Hunger.”

Once items listed under the consent agenda were dealt with, Alejandro Alfaro Ramirez, director of university affairs, presented the resolution to denounce White Supremacy and Hate Speech to the sitting table. The resolution was co-authored by Ramirez and Lupe Santana, commissioner of diversity affairs and was cited as mirrored by California State University, Long Beach, the only Associated Student Inc. that has passed this type of resolution within the CSU system as of the time of the meeting.

The resolution was drafted in response to situations throughout recent semesters at Chico State, where students from marginalized backgrounds felt that AS’s response was “subpar” and their communication about these events were not adequate, according to Ramirez.

In an attempt to move forward from these events, Ramirez asked for responsibility to be taken by AS for mistakes made.

The resolution included a statement from the GAC and from President Gayle Hutchinson denouncing white supremacy and asserting more timely campus announcements when a conflicting event occurs.

The added agenda item was proposed to be rescheduled by Jared Geiser, commissioner of sustainability affairs, for the following GAC to ensure sitting members could have more time to review for any concerns or additional methods for the proposal.

For the resolution to denounce white supremacy and hate speech, no vote was taken, and the decision was moved for the following meeting.

The meeting moved to the next discussion item regarding the town hall with Neil Lazarus, a Zionist speaker. The GAC discussed making a distinction between how the event was brought up weeks ago when first requesting funding, versus how it how it played out.

Ramirez said that at the time the event was explained to GAC as a town hall forum, but during the event, opening speakers said the presentation would be one-sided, according to the audience who attended in protest.

Concerns were expressed over waivers that guests were asked to sign upon entrance, ensuring that they would be respectful to all opinions at the event as well as waive the right and permission for Chico Hillel to use photographs and videos taken during the event.

Students who attended in protest of the speaker told Associated Students they were concerned about being photographed or recorded and then posted on a website known as Canary Mission, known as a “doxxing” site.

The site hosts dossiers on pro-Palestinian student activists, professors, and organizations, focusing primarily on those at North American universities. The website says it lists those it considers be anti-Israel or antisemitic and has said that it will send the names of listed students to prospective employers

Ramirez said that the presentation was uninformative, skewed and Islamophobic, presenting one side of the situation regarding Israel and Palestine. Leaving the discussion to a Q&A during the last 20 minutes pertaining only to topics discussed during the presentation made attendees feel that the event was not a town hall forum.

“Y’all aren’t listening to what we’re saying,” student Melys Jerez said. “We feel like our free speech was barred and that’s a big problem. We have been in conversations with people who know this. They know what’s going on here. I feel like again, as a student I’m being betrayed. Hillel lied to us. I was there when they were requesting funding and they said ‘It wasn’t going to be a lecture,’ but it ended up being a lecture. I do want an apology.”

On the day of the event, members of Chico Palestinian Act were told by Sharleen Lowry Krater, Assistant Director of AS Programs and Government Affairs, that signs and flyers were not allowed inside the BMU. Later, Krater was informed that attendees were allowed to have them inside. Although this was an incident of miscommunication and error, students felt that their free speech was barred. Krater apologized to students who were misinformed.

“There are people who would love to come inside the building and hand things out to people but there are operational rules in the BMU limiting the free speech, this guidance is what I followed when asking protesters to bring their signs outside,” Krater said. “Because the groups in attendance were directly attending, the rules could have been altered.”

After public opinions were expressed, GAC responded with possible solutions for the near-future.

“I don’t think we should put the safety of students below any speaker or group who comes on campus,” Breanna Holbert, Director of Legislative Affairs, said, adding that she felt concerns were brought to the GAC at the last minute.

“This is a repetitive issue of GAC where issues come very last minute and we can’t do our job efficiently when we don’t have time to do research before we choose to act. Reflecting on the CPB event, lots of students come with concerns and that is awesome, but this governing body is also wanting to make actions but I think we should look at providing more resources for students so they can talk about their trauma of attending these events, no matter what side they were on.”

The council ended with a proposal to hold training sessions for time, place, and manner training restrictions.

Kimberly Morales can be reached at [email protected] or @kimberlymnews on Twitter.

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About the Contributor
Kimberly Morales, Reporter
Kim moved away from her hometown, Fullerton, California to Chico to work towards a degree in journalism with an emphasis in the news option at Chico State. In her fourth semester at The Orion, Kim regularly reports topics such as local politics, crime and more. Since joining The Orion, Kim has contributed to Calmatter's college beat during the spring 2020 semester and later joined NPR’s program, Next Generation Radio in collaboration with Capradio to produce an audio story back in the fall 2020 semester. In her spare time, Kim enjoys trying to find the best coffee spot in Chico with her roommate.

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