Mich State student gov denies, then approves, 'Israel Week' funding

Michigan State University's Associated Students group originally denied the Jewish Student Union $15,365.00 for an "Israel Week" event.

The group's finance committee overturned the decision, but not without some backlash.

Michigan State University’s student government finance committee overturned its decision to deny funding to an “Israel Week” event, but not without opposing members voicing their opinions.

The Associated Students of Michigan State University (ASMSU) functions on a budget of more than two million dollars. Its Student Allocations Board is a money-allocating branch formed of several student representatives. 

On Oct. 17, the Student Allocations Board (SAB) denied the Jewish Student Union (JSU) $15,365.00 for the group’s week-long event “Israel Week”. The SAB used three specific reasons to justify withholding the requested money. 

These reasons included “focusing on Israel specifically was perceived as exclusive” and “members of the board did not feel comfortable funding an event with political implications.” 

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The JSU appealed the ruling to the ASMSU Finance Committee at the Oct. 25 meeting. Campus Reform had access to a recording of the meeting and public documents that were distributed. 

“The role of SAB is not, has never been, and will never be to decide on what content is appropriate,” SAB Vice President Makenzie Bosworth stated, contradicting the organization’s previous decision. The vice president also began the Finance Committee discussion on the SAB role in funding requests, which is, “to look at a budget and say ‘is this financially responsible?’”

Her comments were consistent with JSU President Jason Scott’s opening statement. Scott pointed to the SAB hearing where his group “did not get any questions about the budget,” but rather received ones pertaining to the content, such as the political aims of the Israeli government. Scott asked ASMSU Finance Committee members to refrain from political commentary. In addition, he claimed that events during “Israel Week” “refrain from promoting any sort of political agenda.” 

The meeting ultimately centered on the failure of the SAB to properly fulfill its mandated task, but not after a debate over Israel’s legitimacy, offensiveness, and inclusivity.

“Student money should not be going towards an event that is explicitly celebratory of a government…that is currently perpetrating genocide,” said Lauren Pepper, an ASMSU representative to the College of Veterinary Medicine.

Other representatives made accusations relating to the exclusivity of both “Israel Week” and Black Power rallies. Isaiah Hawkins, a Music College representative and Janae Turner, the Black Student Alliance representative, both denounced this alleged parallel. 

[RELATED: College: Prof’s refusal to write Israel letter ‘disappointing’]

After a call to recess, many calls for civility, and lengthy debate, the discussion focused on Israel’s importance. ASMSU Vice President of Governmental Affairs, Eli Pales, brought attention to Israel’s significance as a “safe place for Jews and a place where [their] ideas are safe.” 

However, this point was refuted by ASMSU Liaison for Inclusivity and Diversity Dante Booker, who said she does not “think that this is a type of event where we would specifically be putting certain groups down.” 

The Finance Committee ultimately ruled 8-3 to overturn the SAB decision. 

SAB Representative Omar Elahdan announced his resignation after the vote, stating that he felt that he had failed to represent Arabs and Muslims across MSU’s campus.

Campus Reform reached out to the Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives, but received no comment in time for publication.

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