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The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Gaza ceasefire resolution meets criticism from Jewish Student Alliance president, passes anyway

Despite facing criticism from the Jewish Student Alliance president, the Student Government Association (SGA) pledged its support for the end of genocide in Gaza, calling for an immediate ceasefire and the end of “unconditional armament of Israel.”

The ceasefire resolution passed on Wednesday evening after over an hour of discussion on proposed amendments, with 14 in favor, zero against and five abstentions. Students for Justice in Palestine first visited the Student Senate to call for a resolution more than a month ago.

The resolution also encourages Wichita State and higher education institutions under the Kansas Board of Regents to similarly condemn Israel’s bombings and for the Kansas Legislature to pass a similar ceasefire resolution.  

According to Aljazeera, over 33,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli attacks on Gaza as of April 12. The death toll in Israel is more than 1,100 from Hamas’s attack on Oct. 7.

Public forum

Three students — Sean Wentling, Kendah Ballout and SJP President Abdelkarim Jibril — spoke again before the Senate advocating for the resolution. Ballout and Jibril touched on Israel’s invasions and bombings of Lebanon and Palestine, respectively, and how that has impacted their families.

Abdelkarim Jibril, the president of Students for Justice in Palestine, speaks in front of the Student Government Association in support of the Ceasefire in Gaza resolution. Jibril shared how the war has impacted his family. “The life in their eyes is gone,” Jibril said. (Allison Campbell)

“She (my mother) tells me, ‘I’d rather be over there (in Palestine) than here, with my people instead of a country that has yet to push for a ceasefire,’” Jibril said.

The United States vetoed the United Nations Security Council’s resolution for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza three times. On March 25, the U.N. adopted the resolution after the United States abstained from voting.

After students spoke for the resolution, Jewish Student Alliance President Kian Williams spoke against SGA’s ceasefire resolution via a written statement read by Clerk of the Senate Tessa Fry.

Williams, who uses they/them pronouns, said while they support a ceasefire, they do not think SGA’s resolution promotes “peace and campus unity or safety” and that it contains propaganda and “borderline antisemitic lines.”

According to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, antisemitism is “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews.” It can be directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or property, Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.

Based on this definition, neither the previous nor final draft of SGA’s ceasefire resolution contained antisemitic lines.

Williams also said the resolution’s sponsors have privately made antisemitic comments to them.

In an email to The Sunflower, Williams clarified that the Jewish Support Alliance “did support the resolution in general.”

After Williams’ statement to the Senate criticized the resolution and said they “could not, in good faith, support a resolution that goes beyond peace,” Williams finished by urging senators to support At-large Sen. Andrew Bobbitt’s proposed amendments, and if they were passed, to vote in favor of the resolution.

“The Jewish Student Alliance and I believe strongly in advocating for peace in the region,” Williams said in an email. “Even though the Senate was not completely receptive to the suggested amendments, I hope that this can be a positive step forward and allow SGA to focus on issues impacting students in their every day lives.”

Responses to criticism

Following Williams’ statement, a WSU alum urged the students to focus on passing the ceasefire resolution. After, Speaker of the Senate Kylee Hower called for a five-minute recess. In the gallery, one Palestine supporter whispered to another that Williams’ statement was “insane gaslighting.”

Ballout told The Sunflower that most of the resolution’s co-sponsors have not had contact with Williams and that she thinks their claims are false. She said the resolution was thoroughly researched, accurate and focused on clearly stating “there is a colonizer Israel” and a “colonized Palestine.” 

“Our goal is not necessarily to promote unity — It is to promote a ceasefire, a free Palestine and an end to the oppression of a very clearly oppressed group,” Ballout said.

After the recess, which lasted around 15 minutes, At-large Sen. Gracie Lamb, the ceasefire resolution’s author, addressed Williams’ statement. She said she had cut contact with Williams after they had displayed “very uncomfortable behavior” toward her.

Last May, Williams was removed from speaker of the senate after sexual harassment allegations were raised against them. Two members of SGA spoke about Williams’ behavior making them feel uncomfortable and intimidated.

After Lamb cut Williams off, she said Williams started making accusations of antisemitism against her.

Sen. Gracie Lamb, the author of the Ceasefire in Gaza resolution, speaks on the proposed changes to be made to the resolution. Modifications to the resolution included sending the approved resolution to members of the Kansas legislature and other Kansas universities. (Allison Campbell)

“I myself have never made any antisemitic remarks,” Lamb said. “And part of why I had the strength to cut contact with the individual (Williams) is because although I may have put up with these actions otherwise, I simply could not take it from somebody who had absolutely no empathy for people living in the Middle East and experiencing crimes against humanity beyond my comprehension.”

Lamb said that if any part of her resolution were antisemitic, she would willingly change it.

“I would be happy to amend those parts because I would absolutely not like to have anything on campus that would make Jewish people feel uncomfortable,” Lamb said.

Lamb emphasized the importance of passing the ceasefire resolution, pointing toward students who have historically taken a stand, such as protesting against the Vietnam War.

“I also believe that in a current time that refuses to acknowledge human rights violations, it is important that large groups of people, like Student Government, push our public institution to urge for a ceasefire and ending of these human rights abuses,” Lamb said.

Passing the resolution

At 7:46 p.m., subcommittee chairperson Adriana Owens made a motion to go into committee of the whole to discuss the ceasefire resolution.

Sen. Adrianna Owens speaks on the Ceasefire in Gaza resolution during the Student Senate meeting on Wednesday, April 10. Owens provided input on who the approved resolution should be sent to in hopes of inspiring further change. (Allison Campbell)

According to SGA Adviser Gabriel Fonseca, a committee of the whole is the “least formal way for senators to process and discuss legislation,” and any voting is not binding but just “tests the waters.” Only senators can speak during a committee of the whole.

Owens said a committee of the whole is important because of the divisiveness within the chamber and on campus, and she wants to ensure that “voices are heard” before voting on the ceasefire resolution.

During the committee of the whole, the Senate discussed amendments to the resolution that clarified its goal. At the end, senators informally voted on each proposed amendment separately before returning to the Senate and formally voting on the resolution.

After affirming support of the resolution, At-large Sen. Jasmine Peng pointed out the need for the resolution to state that the Student Government Association, rather than Wichita State, supports a ceasefire in Gaza.

“We only speak for the students; we do not speak for the whole university,” Peng said.

Following a brief discussion, Fonseca confirmed this line of thinking, saying the resolution can either state SGA supports a ceasefire or urge Wichita State to call for a ceasefire because the Senate’s “power stops at Student Government.” 

Owens agreed with SGA taking that position because “WSU could completely ignore” their urge.

“Because we want this resolution to step outside of the walls of this room,” Owens said.

Bobbitt said that by including the Kansas State Legislature or federal representatives, SGA would be “ceding control of the resolution.”

Sen. Andrew Bobbitt relays his concerns regarding the Ceasefire in Gaza resolution. Kian Williams, who submitted a letter of concern to the Student Senate about the resolution, conveyed to Bobbitt the modifications to the piece of legislature he wanted implemented. (Allison Campbell)

“Are you prepared for a response, and does it serve the university and student body as a whole when that response comes?” Bobbitt said.

Bobbitt, who abstained from voting on the resolution, told The Sunflower when the Kansas Graduate Teaching Assistant Coalition (GTAC) issued a statement on Oct. 18 in solidarity with Palestine, the University of Kansas released a statement disagreeing with GTAC’s views.

Bobbitt said he’s “not fundamentally opposed to ceasefire,” but the resolution contains “very loaded language,” and he does not think the resolution fully represented all Wichita State students, based on student groups he spoke with. Bobbitt said he reached out to the Jewish Student Alliance but did not disclose the other groups he spoke with.

Student Services Chairperson Victoria Owens said that getting a response, even a negative one, from public officials is the point. Someone in the gallery pumped their fist in the air in approval.

“When I think of the community, I think of the people behind me who have come to every single session to talk about this resolution,” Owens said. “I know that The Kansas Legislature has already published a response and stance … But I’ll be blunt — I don’t care. I would rather submit the resolution saying, ‘This is what we believe’ than not submit it because there may be ire from public officials.”

In the gallery, Palestine supporters lightly clapped during Owens’ statement.

After the Senate voted to pass the amendments and the resolution, the Palestine supporters in the gallery chanted, “Free, free Palestine,” and some gave a standing ovation. 

Members of Students for Justice in Palestine clap and cheer in support after the Ceasefire in Gaza resolution was passed by the Student Government Association. “Free Palestine,” members cried out in unison at the conclusion of the senate meeting. (Allison Campbell)

Next steps

The resolution will be sent to Wichita State President Richard Muma, Provost Shirley Lefever and Vice President of Student Affairs Teri Hall. It will also be sent to the Kansas Legislature, Kansas Federal Delegation, Kansas Board of Regents presidents, and the KBOR Student Advisory Council.

Fonseca said the resolution will expire when the current SGA session ends on April 18. After that, the resolution must be reintroduced in the Senate.

Victoria Owens promised to reintroduce the resolution in the next session.

The SGA livestream can be watched here.


Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include Williams’ additional response to The Sunflower.

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About the Contributors
Courtney Brown
Courtney Brown, News Editor
Courtney Brown is one of the news editors for The Sunflower. She previously worked as a reporter and assistant news editor. Brown uses she/her pronouns.
Allison Campbell
Allison Campbell, News Editor
Allison Campbell is one of the news editors for The Sunflower. Campbell is a junior pursuing a journalism and media production degree with a minor in English. Campbell hopes to pursue a career in writing or editing after graduation. They use any pronouns.

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