USG passes legislation establishing a Jewish constituency senator

Undergraduate Student Government amended and voted on legislation that would establish a Jewish constituency senator. This legislation was originally voted down on March 24, but was reintroduced after outcry from the student body about a need for Jewish representation on campus


Ayrton Breckenridge

University of Iowa Student Government office door as seen on Jan. 26.

Brady Osborne, News Reporter

Undergraduate Student Government has passed a bill during its meeting on Tuesday that establishes a Jewish constituency senator position within the legislative body for the 2021-2022 school year.

This legislation was originally voted down on March 24, but was brought back to the floor after outcry from the student body about a need for Jewish representation within USG.

The bill was passed with amendments with 95 percent of senators voting yes on Tuesday.

When introducing the legislation on the floor on Tuesday, Sen. Prakruti Pancholi said it is the job of USG to condemn all forms of discrimination on campus.

“At its core, this is anti-discrimination legislation,” Pancholi said. “It is our job as USG to condemn all forms of discimination on campus that undergraduate students face.”

Pancholi said the senator will be appointed by the University of Iowa student organization Iowa Hillel, a group working to make the UI a welcoming community for all students.

President of Iowa Hillel Mollie Chez said the board is committed to having an internal election to appoint the new Jewish constituency senator.

RELATED: USG votes down Jewish Constituency Senator position

An amendment was proposed by Sen. Paul Richards that would add the working definition of anti-Semitism provided by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance to the legislation.

UI graduate student Maria Martin, who is affiliated with Iowa Hillel, said during the meeting that the definition provided by the alliance is adequate for use by USG. “We came to this conclusion simply because the IHRA is an authority on anti-Semitism,” Martin said. “And I think it says something about people on either end of the political spectrum with different upbringings of different ethnic backgrounds. Ashkenazi, Mizrahim, Sephardic, and other ethnic backgrounds within our community have looked at this and we feel comfortable with this definition.”

This amendment received support in the senate, and the legislation was amended to include this working definition.

Another amendment was proposed by Pancholi that would move the enactment of this senator position from the 2022-2023 school year to the 2021-2022 school year.

Pancholi said this amendment would mean that USG would have a Jewish constituency senator in session beginning next fall.

This amendment was also voted on and added to the Jewish constituency position legislation. When asked why she introduced this amendment, Pancholi said it was because the USG election is uncontested this year, meaning a seat will be available for this senator.

“Our main goal in doing this is providing effective representation as soon as possible,” Pancholi said. “We wanted to offer it and make sure that it could happen because this [having the senator for 2021-2022] was the original intent.”

A third and final amendment was introduced by Sen. Nick Nachtman, which stated that USG is committed to recognizing issues with constituency senator positions and to reforming the positions to make sure they are benefitting the campus to the best of their abilities.

“I wish to add this to the legislation just as a reminder enshrined for us so that we look at these issues that have come up over the debate over the past couple of weeks and we push to actually work on them,” Nachtman said.

This amendment was approved by the senate and added to the legislation.

After voting on amendments, the senate was then able to debate over SSB-17 as a whole.

Sen. Josh Brown spoke out in support of the legislation, citing statements from Jewish students from a USG and Graduate and Professional Student Government town hall meeting on Wednesday, March 24th about anti-Semitism, as well as the duty of USG to stand up for students.

“The University of Iowa is supposed to be a safe space for all students of all identities,” Brown said. “The fact that it is familiar to Jewish students that anti semitism is routinely brushed under the rug, that it is allowed to run rampant in our community and our institution is unconscionable.”