The resolution was approved with a 5-0-5 vote. All five Undergraduate Students Association Council members from the Student Empowerment! slate voted in favor of the resolution. The other council members abstained from voting.
More than 50 students from various student groups stormed the USAC general meeting to present the council with reasons to oppose the war. The resolution was sponsored by Academics Affairs Commissioner Chris Diaz, Internal Vice President T.J. Cordero and Cultural Affairs Commissioner Robbie Clark.
Samahang Pilipino President Emerson Lego told the council about the nation’s long-standing history of students taking stances on political issues. From civil rights to the Vietnam War to the apartheid issue, students have made a difference, Lego said.
“Students should utilize the resources they have to benefit all of humanity,” he said.
Fourth-year student Sophia Kozak added that the resolution received support from 15 different student organizations, and is representative of student needs. More than 700 students signed a petition against a possible war.
The overwhelming presence of anti-war sentiment was contended by one meeting-goer.
Bruin Republican President Andy Jones, a former Daily Bruin Viewpoint columnist, argued that from what he has observed, most students are in favor of the war or don’t know the facts.
He added that USAC had no place to make any sort of policy regarding the issue.
“This is not our fight … it is the fight of the international councils,” he said.
But peace proponent Eric Tang said that it was students’ responsibility to get involved.
Fifth-year business economics and international development studies student Ghaith Mahmood, who has family in Iraq, encouraged USAC to make the connection between the war and students.
A war would result in increased military spending causing budget cuts in education, health care and labor, Mahmood said.
Following the vote of approval, student group members, anti-war posters in hand, continued their celebration out on the Kerckhoff stairs applauding council and chanting calls for peace.
Council members were split on whether the student government made the right decision.
General Representative Adam Harmetz said he abstained from voting because he didn’t know how all undergraduate students felt.
“I didn’t want my personal views to get in the way,” he said.
General Representative Jenny Lam said although she was satisfied with the outcome, she wished more council members would have voted.
“A lot of students on campus have concerns and abstaining to vote is like choosing to not voice those concerns,” Lam said.
Some students expressed different views on the issue.
“I think we shouldn’t go to war, it just causes more hate and pain,” said first-year business economics student Laura Lin.
But fourth-year psychology student Jason Drew said that he didn’t know enough about the issue to take a stance.
Both council members and students had varied opinions on whether student government should take official stances of political issues.
Harmetz said he felt that generally USAC should not take political stances, but the Iraq issue is justified.
“We need to be very careful because (USAC taking) political stances could marginalize students,” he said.
President David Dahle added that student council should use caution when taking political stances and base its decision on sufficient evidence from the student body.
“I do believe that the (student government) should take a stance … war and violence are issues that divide and affect students,” said Hadley Salz, fifth-year world arts and culture student.
“If (USAC) takes an anti-war stance, it would be encouraging peace,” Salz said.
Fourth-year political science and history student, Eric Haren said he felt student government had no place commenting on matters of foreign policy.
Haren added that students aren’t generally interested in USAC decisions in the first place.
“You can look at USAC voter turnout and see that students don’t care what USAC does,” he said.
In the past, USAC councils have set precedents for both sides of the issue. Councils have both taken political stances as well as opting to refrain from passing such resolutions.
In 2001, the council voted 10-0 to withdraw a resolution condemning the Israeli government for alleged violations of Palestinians’ human rights.
In the 1980s, student government passed a resolution urging the University of California Regents to divest from South Africa in protest of apartheid.