A.S. removes pro-divestment statement from ballot

by Colleen Larson, Staff Writer

The San Diego State Associated Students’ Election Committee removed the Divestment Coalition’s original statement supporting divestment from the special ballot released this week for student vote.

The official ballot offers two sections for voters to read over before they make their decision. One is the Statement in Opposition of divesting, and the other is the Rebuttal Statement to the Opposition. The Divestment Coalition’s “pro” statement was taken off the ballot, and a 250-word rebuttal statement was published instead in response to the 750-word opposition statement. The original statement in support of divestment included a lengthier argument and has been published on The Daily Aztec website.

A.S. said the measure to remove the original “pro” statement was approved after the student-run Divestment Coalition posted fliers supporting its stance in areas not approved for campus postings.

“The A.S. Elections Committee voted not to include the ‘pro’ statement after they found the Divest Coalition in violation of SDSU and A.S. guidelines through the manner in which they created and posted their campaign material throughout campus, and a Divest Coalition member stated that they knew the rules when they did so,” Bree Lutjens, the A.S. elections coordinator said. “Previously, the Divest Coalition ‘pro’ statement was submitted late and was over the 750-word limit, but these issues were waived.”

The Appeals Panel upheld the decision to withdraw the ‘pro’ statement, Lutjens said.

The pro and con statements offer rhetoric for both sides of the divestment issue. But the Divestment Coalition says the A.S. Election Committee has silenced its voices by removing its statement from the ballot. Osama Alkhawaja, member of the Divestment Coalition and a computer science senior, said the A.S. Election Committee violated the group’s right to freedom of speech by removing the “pro” statement and the coalition plans to take legal action.

He said removing the coalition’s statement from the ballot is an unofficial punishment for the posting of pro divestment flyers on unauthorized parts of campus. Alkhawaja said he met with several administrators to retract the decision to pull the “pro” side from the ballot, but soon realized his efforts were of no use.

“When it became clear that they would uphold this outrageous decision, I made the suggestion that had they wanted to truly silence us, they should have duct-taped the mouths of all the members of our coalition because as long as we can talk, they will not silence our voices,” Alkhawaja said. “I stand by this statement.”

He said he wants all students to make an educated decision.

“I would like to tell any students who are reading this to understand that this is a question of values,” Alkhawaja said. “Do we value objectivity and thorough education or do we prefer to see our university presenting one side of the story to a multi-faced issue?”

Lutjens said “A.S. has worked hard” to provide information for students to make an educated vote.

“A.S. has had four open forums, four ads in The Daily Aztec, a-frames in the Student Union, hundreds of posters and flyers throughout campus, A.S. social media and website promotion, and two campus-wide emails,” she said.

Students will have the chance to vote on the issue this week through the Student Initiative Referendum available through SDSU WebPortal. Voting for the divestment referendum will be open until 7 p.m. April 9.