MOORHEAD – The Student Government Association (SGA) Senate meeting on Thursday, Nov. 2, centered around the ongoing Israel/Palestine conflict and what actions SGA should take in the future to respond to world events that impact Concordia students.
During the previous SGA meeting, a subcommittee was created with the idea that they would craft and publish a statement on the conflict.
No official statement from SGA was ever released.
“There was a lot of miscommunication, a lot of non-communication,” SGA President, Jesus Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez then stood to clarify previous events and the handling of the situation.
Clarification of Statement and Timeline of Events
“On Tuesday, October 10, we had a call to action by students. We received an email by a fellow student who was raising concerns over the college’s willingness to send out a statement on things in the world specifically on what is happening in Israel and Palestine,” Gonzalez said.
On Wednesday Oct. 11, Gonzalez worked on addressing this request. He met with the assistant dean of students, Nathalie Rinehardt, and had a discussion. They brought in others like the DEIC lead commissioner, Fanan Nizam and SGA vice president Anna Kronbeck to help address the situation.
“The goal was to come up with a statement to figure out how we as students, as student leaders here in SGA can see the hurt in our students can address it,” Gonzalez said.
The deadline of this group was to release a statement on Friday, Oct.13.
While all of this was happening, on the afternoon of Thursday Oct. 12 President Colin Irvine called a meeting with several Concordia staff members.
Rhinehardt, who was present at the senate meeting on November 2, spoke regarding the events leading up to the decision to not send out a statement.
“He (Irvine) had called a handful of staff members to his office Thursday afternoon, myself, Dr. Michael Chan, and then Heidi Rogers. And in that meeting, he really wanted to know why students want a statement so badly,” Rinehardt said.
President Irvine has yet to release an official statement regarding the genocide in Palestine.
“President Irvine has said in a few different spaces that his inclination as a president is not to send statements,” Rhinehardt said.
However, in an email to the Concordian, Irvine stated that “Concordia College supports students who wish to have their views heard in a peaceful manner, and it seeks to bring people of different backgrounds together in open and thoughtful dialogue.”
On Friday, Oct. 13, the groups deadline, another meeting occurred.
“It became really clear that we needed to sit down with all of the different student leaders that were working on the demonstration,” Rinehardt said.
Ultimately, the Concordia staff that were involved in this group decided against publishing an official statement. One reason to note is that no one present on campus had the ability to send out a Cobweb, a message that would reach every student ands staff inbox.
The other reason that Rinehardt cited was student safety.
She brought up incidents on college campuses on the east coast that jeopardized student’s safety.
“Students had released statements and participated in protests. And some of those students were being doxxed, and had threats to their safety,” Rhinehardt said.
Due to these reasons, Concordia staff members Rhinehardt, Rogers and Chan decided to postpone any action regarding a statement.
“And in that moment, myself and Heidi and Michael Chan, as staff here, felt like it was our responsibility to say, we’re going to pause. We were also headed into homecoming, and inauguration, and I bring those up not because of the high profile events being so important that we couldn’t possibly also be sending out emails about this, but to be frank, our public safety is stretched so thin with all of the different events that they were expected to be at,” Rhinehardt said.
With homecoming and the events that surround it quickly approaching, campus security may have had a difficult time responding to any possible threats relating to releasing a statement of this kind.
“We didn’t feel good about whether or not there were going to be enough individuals to respond quickly,” Rhinehardt said.
The deadline was pushed until the following Monday, Oct. 16, after homecoming.
“I think in the moment we all made the best decisions that we could have felt that even though I know that it wasn’t a 100% agreed upon decision,” Rhinehardt said.
There was no official statement made on Monday, Oct. 16, however a Cobweb was sent out to Concordia students advertising the peace walk that would occur later that week in support of Palestinians.
Gonzalez claimed responsibility for the lack of communication with the rest of the SGA senate regarding what events and decisions were occuring.
“The responsibility to communicate this to Senate was on me,” Gonzalez said.
He apologized for his lack of communication that created confusion.
“Quite frankly, I didn’t know how to communicate to you all and that isn’t an excuse to not do something. I just wanted to tell it to you how I interpreted and how I experienced it,” Gonzalez said.
He also clarified that his email as SGA president was not used to send out a statement because he felt it would be representative of the student government and he did not want to make that decision before consulting with the senate.
“That email represents to me, anything that comes through there as an official SGA message, whether it’s resolution, announcement or something that we were acting on, and such, as SGA,” Gonzalez said.
Ultimately, Gonzalez stated that safety was the reason he would not have made a statement at that time.
“I just, myself, wasn’t willing to do that. to risk the safety of our students, again, that’s an action that I will own today that I did not decide to do that. It’s my decision,” Gonzalez said.
The decision was then moved to Thursday, Oct. 19, at the SGA senate meeting. This came two days after the demonstration that occured on the 17. The ultimate decision of the senate was to create an emergency subcommittee that would craft and release a statement the following week.
This statement was likewise never released by SGA.
SGA’s Plan for Future Incidents
Following the explanation from Gonzalez and Rinehardt, the senate had a brainstorming session to share ideas on what a plan of action could be for similar future events. Solutions like having a different way of operating, emergency rules and procedures and emergency senate meetings when another event like this occurs were supported ideas.
There were several disagreements as far as if SGA should even be taking a stance on political issues as well as the difference between taking a stance and addressing an issue.
The senate also seemed to agree that there were issues in how they communicated with the student body. A new or improved way that SGA could address students was a popular idea.
Structure changes to have class reps be more available and accessible to students were also mentioned.
After the initial senate meeting, a smaller group stayed behind to discuss how SGA could address and support students affected by the violence in Israel and Palestine.
The small group of approximately 10 members met to discuss and brainstorm ideas to be more prepared in cases like this for the future, as well as decide on a course of action related to the Israel/Palestine conflict.
Both Gonzalez and Kronbeck were present at the meeting.
“Just centering student needs, should be our first priority,” Kronbeck said.
The group came up with multiple different ideas as far as supporting students and fundraising for the cause specifically.
These were ideas like hosting events like drives or fundraisers, as well as holding sessions to have open discussions on the issue or sessions to help educate students.
The main consensus was that SGA’s role is to support already existing and planned initiatives.
In addition, the committee decided to research relief funds that money could be raised for.