Student Senate passes Ceasefire resolution

Students packed in the March 26 Senate meeting. PEERAWUT RUANGSAWASDI / THE FLAT HAT
Students packed in the March 26 Senate meeting. PEERAWUT RUANGSAWASDI / THE FLAT HAT

Tuesday, March 26, the College of William and Mary Student Assembly Senate passes SR 331-005 – The Ceasefire in Palestine Resolution, sponsored by Sen. Hashir Aqeel ’25 and Secretary of the Senate Sen. Hazel Vineet ’25, following an intense public comment session. In addition to other actions by the College, the resolution calls for College President Katherine Rowe to release a statement calling for a ceasefire, immediate aid to the Gaza strip, the return of refugees and “lasting peace for all peoples involved in or impacted by the violence taking place in Palestine and Israel.” 

The resolution received 16 ‘Yes’ votes, 6 ‘No’ votes and 3 abstentions. One senator, Sen. Spencer Krivo ’26, was not present during the vote. 

Over 30 members of Recognized Student Organizations officially supported the resolution. At the Senate meeting, members of the public had the opportunity to provide comments before the vote. SA Vice President Taylor Fox ’24 moderated the session.

Students and community members both opposing and supporting the resolution were present.

“Good evening, respected members of Student Assembly and college students,” Students for Justice in Palestine President Sami Khleifat ’24 said. “I stand before you, not just as a proud Palestinian, but as a friend, a peer and a member of this community. As a Palestinian, I must humanize myself to ensure my voice is taken seriously.”

Khleifat added by citing the hardships faced by people in Gaza.

“Like you, I wake up to the world each morning, but unlike most, I am greeted by the reality of mangled bodies, starving children, fathers came to remains of their children in two separate plastic bags and obliterated homes and houses,” Khleifat added. “This isn’t a narrative crafted from history. It is the painful present, a reality televised and streamed into our everyday lives. We are at a point where silence and actions speak louder than any words of condolence could. The ceasefire bill before us is not merely a document, it is a testament to our collective humanity. A call to recognize and condemn the ongoing ethnic cleansing in Palestine and an urgent plea for peace.”

Gabriel Stein ’27 voiced his opposition to the resolution.

“I know you might be seeing that I’m wearing a hat, but surprise, I sometimes wear this around campus,” Stein said while taking his hat off, revealing a kippah. “But since October 7, I haven’t felt safe in doing so.”

Stein added that he supports having moderated discussions between different student groups — Palestinian, Israeli, Jewish and Muslim student populations.

“But the fact that the school is taking a blatant stance here is, in general, just reading over the resolution, ineffectual for the majority of the student body and horrible for the small percent that it might affect. As a Jewish student reading through that resolution, I feel scared that the school does not represent who I am and does not represent my values. I chose William Mary because I knew this place was one of the beacons of freedom in America and truly represented democracy and freedom of speech. But when this resolution gets passed by our student assembly, who is supposed to represent us, the students here, I don’t feel represented,” Stein elaborated.

Other students also voiced their opinions. Aaron Weinmann ’26 said he believes that a ceasefire would allow Hamas to rule over Gaza and oppress Palestinian civilians. Andrew Finklestein ’26 said he believes that SA demanding a ceasefire is the equivalent of friends of a girl in an abusive relationship to marry her partner, and said Gaza could be turned into Paris if Hamas was destroyed like the Nazis in World War Two.

Iqra Ahmad ’26 said a campaign of self-defense should not be ethnic cleansing and said there is precedent in the College taking a stance in international conflicts, such as it did in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Bill co-sponsor Aqeel gave his thoughts on the resolution.

“I’d like to start by saying that we are uniquely positioned to elevate the voices of all of our students,” Aqeel said. “And it’s abundantly clear from hearing all the different voices here today that the administration has not done enough to sort of create a space for this sort of dialogue. With that being said, while writing this resolution, I had input for organizations representing well over a thousand students, if you put them together, addressing the need for this resolution.”

Aqeel added that he believes that the resolution speaks for a large portion of the student body and urged all senators to avoid abstaining and vote on it, as there were a number of abstentions on the resolution in committee discussions.

“So I would be hesitant to say that this isn’t a resolution that echoes the opinions or voices of at least a solid portion of our student body. Additionally, as we discussed today, as I mentioned in my response document to the comments left on the resolution, we should not be treating this as a political debate today. None of us are properly qualified in this room — at least those who are able to speak right now — to give proper, proper legal argumentation. And with that being said, there are tons of people on all sides of this issue who have done a great deal of work providing legal argumentation, on all sides of the issue. And it would be a waste of our time here today to have a circular conversation,” Aqeel added.

Sen. Connor Cheadle J.D. ’25, while voicing his opposition to the resolution, referenced acts of violence committed by Hamas. After Sen. Marshea Robinson MBA relayed that she felt uncomfortable, as such Cheadle was interrupted by Fox. Fox allowed Cheadle to finish his statement and said anyone who felt uncomfortable was allowed to leave. 

The Senate passed the resolution after the debate. A clause calling for peace in the region was added by Aqeel following a request by Cheadle, which was referenced in Rowe’s statement released Friday, March 29.

“I am especially appreciative that the Student Assembly resolution affirmed the call for ‘lasting peace.’” Rowe wrote. “Many of us pray for peace for Israelis and Palestinians and condemn the horrific violence that is shattering so many lives and communities. Moreover, at times of grief and fear, the threat of prejudice always rises; as I urged last fall, we must take special care to protect our community members from antisemitism and Islamophobia.”

SJP executive board released the following statement to The Flat Hat.

“Those students’ words at the Student Assembly vote last night comprise a systematic dehumanization of myself and some of the most important people in my life based on our inherent ethnic and religious identities, one founded on blatant falsehoods that ignore confirmed facts and instead employ inherently racist rhetoric,” the statement reads. “To be in that room for upwards of an hour and be forcibly met with their distorted perception of the Palestinian cause was easily the most difficult thing I have endured at my time at the College, and, for better or for worse, perfectly encapsulates our goals as a collective of organizers.”

The organization also laid out their goals.

“We aim to educate on difficult matters such as these with research, known facts, and substantial contextualization,” the organization added. “We aim to determine the root of mindsets that perpetuate division and hatred, which attempt to falsely portray 2.3 million oppressed people as terrorists and terrorist sympathizers in a concentrated effort to justify their continued oppression, which is once again based on a racist, dehumanizing anti-Arab and Islamophobic worldview. And we aim to use all this information to challenge and broaden current perspectives, ultimately to serve as a reminder that no aspect of an individual’s inherent identity serves as a valid basis to dehumanize or steal from them their basic human rights and civil liberties.”

Ultimately, SJP approved of SA’s vote on the resolution.

“Student Assembly’s vote to ultimately pass the Ceasefire in Palestine Resolution is one step of many that begins to accomplish this goal at the broader community level, and one that establishes the foundations for providing greater support and security for some of the most marginalized and vulnerable students on this campus,” SJP concluded. “Right now, this includes our Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim peers, especially as Islamophobic and anti-Arab sentiments and hate crimes spike across the country, including on college campuses.”


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