“Hi, I’m Sarah and I’m a newly elected freshmen representative on TCU Senate.” To which they usually respond, “Don’t even get me started, have you heard what happened last year?” It seems to me Senate’s identity on campus has become synonymous with one resolution, and as shocking as that is for a naive, excited first year like me, maybe that identity is fair.
Last year a discussion on an issue that is close to many hearts at Tufts was started and abruptly came to an end. Resolutions that pass are only binding for the specific fiscal year during which they were voted on, and decisions made by past Senates do not carry over year to year. However, that doesn’t mean the conversation is over for Tufts students.
I can’t speak for any of my fellow senators, or even any other students that were on campus last year when I was finishing up high school, but I know Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) is an issue that isn’t over for our community. It seems we sparked a discussion without time for it to be engaged with critically from all corners of campus. At least to me, it seems that spark, the resolution that started these discussions, occurred at one of the only times it could before the end of the school year, but the school year had to come to an end before Tufts students had the time to put in their two cents.
I was raised in a Jewish home, have visited Israel three times and I had a Bat Mitzvah. At the same time, I have found a passion for human rights and personally believe there are institutions in Israel that validate and legitimize the oppression of non-Jews. All of this background to say, I don’t know where I stand on BDS or what Tufts’ role should or should not be in that movement. But, I firmly believe that in order for all the grievances on all sides of last year’s resolution to be fully appreciated, that four-hour Senate meeting cannot be the end of this campus discussion.
I don’t know if Senate meetings are the place to decide the future of Tufts’ investment in potentially controversial holdings, but I don’t know if they are the wrong place either. We were elected to listen to and amplify student voices to the administration, and to push for new and progressive changes that are relevant to our student body.
Yet I believe these obligations do not lie solely with how Senate operates in official meetings. We and our classmates carry the responsibility to listen openly, advocate passionately and reach across difference in our daily conversations and interactions with one another.
I hope this article serves as a call for students to have the tough conversations and intentionally listen to beliefs they don’t agree with, and I’ll do my best to do the same. How big a mistake it would be to allow all the passion our students have shown for elevating student voices, demanding seats at the university’s decision-making table and practicing global citizenship to go to waste because of one divisive event last spring.
I don’t want to minimize how the BDS events of last year may have harmed any sect of the Tufts student body, but I think it’s time we start seeking a way to tie up the loose ends the resolution last year left.
Maybe it’s my first-year naivety rearing its rosy-cheeked face again, but I don’t believe this closure will need to happen in a way that further distances ourselves from our empathy from each other and from our shared community. In fact, this closure may even make our community stronger as it embraces a larger diversity of opinion. As a senator — although still only a few months into my time at Tufts — I’m confident that all the groups involved in last year’s resolution thought they were doing what was best for Tufts respectively.
Since that meeting, Senate voted to amend our bylaws to mandate a two-week discussion and publicity period before resolutions can be heard for a Senate vote. By no means does that imply that our role in this conversation is over, or that those hurt by the process last year are fully relieved, but it’s one step. I hope to see more town halls, more workshops and more organized discussions about issues we are passionate about. The conversation isn’t over; it’s just beginning.