Resolution passes to protect Palestinian voices

After two weeks, several hours of meetings and the support of nearly 500 Mavericks, the Student Government passed a resolution to protect pro-Palestinian voices. 

Similar to last week, around 50 students surrounded the senators holding signs in support of the resolution, waiting for the answer which came to 19 yeas and two nays.

Sophomore Cole Koets said the sit-ins from last week and Wednesday were a way of making their mission visible. 

“We felt that 500 signatures was more than enough to put forward and sponsor a bill,” Koets said. 

Koets said the resolution came about from looking at ways to protest the war in Gaza while also giving students at MSU material results of their support.

“We want to be able to point to something and say ‘Look, this is the culmination of your support for us.’ I think the easiest guarantee is we should be able to give our students the freedom to hold an opinion on something like this,” Koets said. 

Bringing the resolution to the Student Government was about a two-month project. Koets, graduate student Zena Al Safar and senior Natalia Orocio looked at resolutions from other universities, tabled at multiple places around campus and met with student senators. 

It’s been over 140 days since the war in Palestine started on Oct. 7. In the five months since the war began, over 30,000 Palestinians have been killed. Orocio said how the media and government have handled coverage surrounding the war has made her perspective “realistic.” 

“I know this is happening to these people and it’s very upsetting that our politicians know this. They know that we can see what is going on because there have been so many forms of protesting happening like Aaron Bushnell who did the most extreme act of protest which is lighting himself on fire,” Orocio said. 

(Bushnell, a member of the U.S. Air Force, lit himself on fire in front of the Israeli embassy in Washington D.C. Feb. 25 in protest of the war in Palestine.)

Al Safar said the issue in Palestine isn’t only about some other country that doesn’t affect anyone. She said it impacts everyone. 

“When we solve one issue, it doesn’t mean we are solving only that issue. We’re solving so many other issues that are interlinked and interconnected. We need to think of it as an international thing,” Al Safar said. 

She also said the resolution allows her and anyone else to openly talk about the war in Palestine without fear of consequences. 

“Last semester, I was at a rally and shouting ‘Ceasefire for Palestine,’ but at the same time, I didn’t know if it was acceptable,” Al Safar said. “I’m an international student here on a scholarship and I wasn’t sure if I was going to be expelled. I had to email multiple people saying, ‘Hey, is this OK?’”

Director of the Kessel Peace Institute Jameel Haque said other forms of protest have not been received positively in the past. Haque said a rally titled “Rally for Peace in Palestine” was discouraged by the Minnesota State system. Haque also gave a lecture at Gustavus Adolphus College which was attempted to be shut down by a professor. 

“The Minn State system office is looking at our events. They’ve got an eye on us in telling us not to do certain freedom of speech events. That’s a problem,” Haque said. 

Al Safar said just because the resolution is for freedom of speech, it isn’t shutting off any other voices.

“We are just asking for freedom of speech for voices that are potentially going to be prosecuted or oppressed,” Al Safar. 

Haque said students have always tried to keep their activism positive, inclusive and open to all ideas while simultaneously calling out the wrongs. 

“There is a way to talk about it that’s peaceful and reconciliatory and that’s what we’ve really focused on,” Haque said. 

Orocio said she wants to encourage students to use their voices. 

“I think that especially Mavericks, we are like the next generation, and it is going to be our responsibility to undo those injustices,” Orocio said.

Al Safar said while the resolution may seem like a small project, she’s proud it passed. 

“My Palestinian friend is going to be able to say something about his country and not be afraid that he will be disciplined,” Al Safar said. 

Al Safar said she hopes “more people will go to the Student Government” for any future issues they want addressed. 

Now that the resolution has passed, Al Safar said she and other members of the Kessel Peace Institute’s Student Advisory Council members are hoping to create an RSO called Mavericks for Change.

Header photo: The Minnesota State University, Mankato Student Government successfully passed a resolution to protect pro-Palestinian voices. Students surrounded the senate holding signs to ‘vote yes’ to protect student voices. (Nate Tilahun/The Reporter)

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