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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

SGA fails statement, petition for lack of Jewish voices

Three students stand at podiums while presenting and talking. The SGA rejected a proposed statement and petition intended to address Muslim student concerns about the ongoing Israel-Hamas war on Nov. 10. (Joey Trella | Northern Star)

DeKALB The SGA rejected its proposed statement regarding the Israel-Hamas war written in response to Muslim students’ safety.

The association rejected a similar petition, which would have recommended NIU provide educational and mental health resources to the campus regarding the conflict. 

Senators voiced that the statement and the petition’s approvals were incomplete without Jewish student perspectives, but the postponement of both disappointed present students at the meeting.

Reem Shihab, a sophomore psychology major and a Palestinian mother of three, said she felt the Senate’s decision to hold off on the statement was only neglecting more pressing issues.

“I feel disappointed because they’re not looking at the right thing,” Shihab said. “It’s just about the humanitarian thing, it’s ceasefire; that’s it, that’s all we’re talking about. I’m talking about children dying, I’m talking about women dying, people being displaced from their own homes. It’s not about Palestinian versus Israeli, Hamas versus Israel, if you know what I mean? It’s just that the humanitarian part of it just watching people die, watching somebody go through a genocide.”

The intended SGA statement would have provided support to those affected by the ongoing war by condemning Islamophobia and antisemitism.

Students have reached out to the SGA feeling “unheard and unrecognized” and some claiming they don’t feel safe on campus because of a lack of a unifying statement addressing the war.

Maha Alkarzon, a graduate digital marketing major, told the Senate she feared for her safety as a Palestinian student who formerly lived in Gaza. 

“I’m terrified because they (Zionists) want to get rid of me and get rid of all the Palestinians,” Alkarzon said. “And you know, it’s terrifying living in the U.S., knowing that you don’t even feel safe going out there.”

The statement was originally introduced at the previous SGA meeting on Nov. 3 but was purposefully tabled by Deputy Speaker and resolution co-sponsor Chris English at the Nov. 3 meeting to include perspectives from a Jewish student organization with the revisions.

English said he wanted to include NIU’s Jewish student organizations into the discussion, but his search led him to state there were no active Jewish associations at NIU. In place of an organization, English said he sought out the perspectives of various anonymous Jewish students on campus.

“Yeah, it sucks that I had to go to individual students instead of an organization, but at least the students that I reached out to said that this resolution is fine as if they did not see a need to change it,” English said. “I know I didn’t talk to every single Jewish student, but the ones that I knew did not see a need to change it.”

Despite the present student support pressing for the statement’s approval, the statement was rejected with a vote of 6-8-0 by the board. The collective argument from Senators was that the lack of Jewish student voices present in the statement’s creation was not representative of the full university.

“There is no backing or anything from any sort of Jewish students organization, and I do find a very prevalent issue with that,” Senator Demetri Anastopoulos said.

SGA petitions are the highest form of request to the university to change some forms of policy. Petitions are required to pass through two rounds of voting across separate sessions before finalization, according to SGA bylaws.

The petition addressed similar standards of the impacted student statements and so many discussions carried over into the rejection of the petition. The Senate voted 5-8-1, not reaching the two-thirds vote required to pass.

Anastopoulos voiced his opposition toward the statement and petition’s approval, arguing that the lack of Jewish student representation would misrepresent the SGA’s voice for the university.

“It might not work very well with the university and you might face some backlash for that as the Student Government Association, so I just want to make sure that as we set forth everything is iron clad and so all the students can get the support that they need,” Anastopoulos said.

English said Anastaopoulos’s efforts were hindering original student concerns that pushed for the statement’s creation in the first place.

“The fact that multiple times in a row we’ve had public comments in support of this,” English said. “The fact that it wasn’t the Senator who wrote this and it was other organizations who wrote this shows that campus is supporting it.”

English said he is going to reach out to members of the Jewish community to start a Jewish student organization in order to provide their representation in the statement.

Senator Maria Sofia told the Senate they weren’t considering the current students’ safety if they were to reject both resolutions.

“I’ve talked to many students here on campus, a lot of them do not feel safe,” Sofia said. “My question to you guys is if this resolution did not pass and if the petition was not to pass either, the students here would feel even more unsafe.”

Present students expecting the statement and the petition’s approval expressed their disappointment with the failure of both.

Tyler Rambuski-Salzman, a senior political science major and president of NIU’s chapter of the Young Democratic Socialists of America, said he was in disbelief at the SGA’s decision.

“I think it’s a shame that they’re pushing back and get further on these issues,” Rambuski-Salzman said. “I mean, like you said, there’s 10,000 people who’ve already died, and it’s affecting people here in the United States as well and on campus – it’s time to act.”

English and Sofia announced that the statement and petition would be revised and English would seek out Jewish students or staff who were interested in creating an active Jewish student organization. If a Jewish student organization were to be created it would join the discussion and the current authors of both resolutions, the MSA and the Arab Student Association.


The SGA praised the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center for it’s efforts with the Period Project, where additional female hygiene products have been provided in campus bathrooms.

The Period Project is an effort to highlight awareness on the financial burden and inaccessibility of period products.

The Senate also officially recognized six new student organizations. The organizations included the Rockford Promise Club, the Latin American Graduate Student Association, the Arab Students Association, the Campus Missions International, the Society of Physics Students, the NIU Student Council on Family Relations and Tumbao.

SGA meetings are open to the public and held at 2 p.m. on Fridays, with locations posted in the senate’s agendas. SGA minutes and intent to speak forms are available on Huskie Hub.

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