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Foothill Academic Senate rejects ceasefire resolution

FHAS declares it not in their jurisdiction, prevents similar resolutions from going through future senates
Members of the public sit in the designated public area, several with signs.

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to reflect that the resolution was written by five authors, not just Fatima Jinnah. The statement on the installation website has also been correctly credited to its main writer.

 

Foothill Academic Senate moves to adopt the April 8 meeting agenda. (Ann Penalosa)

Foothill College’s Academic Senate shot down a resolution explicitly calling for “an immediate and permanent humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza” with 12 yes votes, nine no votes and four abstentions which put the resolution out of the senate’s purview in the Krause Center for Innovation on Monday, April 8.

Unlike a vote against the resolution itself, declaring the resolution out of their purview means that the Foothill Academic Senate does not recognize the resolution on the grounds that it is not relevant to or within their scope as a governing body; it also means no future action will take place on the resolution and that the resolution cannot be reintroduced to the Academic Senate.

This decision came on the same day Foothill unveiled an art installation in the library quad, co-sponsored by the Social Justice Club and Allies for Peace & Justice for Palestine Collective, to recognize the 14,500 Palestinian children Israel has killed so far in its siege on Gaza, according to Al Jazeera.

Community members stand and sit in the designated public waiting area at the Krause Center for Innovation. (Ann Penalosa)

“I’m disappointed in the Academic Senate for refusing to even hold a discussion or vote on the proposed resolution,” Liza Mamedov-Turchinsky, a Jewish Foothill alum who graduated in 2019 and the co-founder and former Editor-in-Chief of The Foothill Script, said. “A no vote would have sufficed, but instead the Senate engaged in logic games to justify why prioritizing the perspective of Hillel Silicon Valley’s lawyers is relevant while listening to a wide coalition of Palestinian, Muslim, Arab, Native American, South and Southeast Asian, Latinx, and anti-Zionist Jewish students, faculty, staff, and alumni is not.”

Members of Foothill’s Academic Senate deliberate on whether or not the resolution is in purview. (Ann Penalosa)

The resolution, authored by Fatima Jinnah, Suzy Quezada, Hilda Fernandez, John Fox and Patrick Morris, titled “Resolution Recognizing Sustained Peace And Safety For All Students,” follows both the Faculty Association’s “FA Statement in Support of a Ceasefire in Gaza” on March 28 and the Santa Clara County Board of Education’s “Resolution Recognizing Sustained Peace and Safety for All Children” that passed on Jan. 29.

A letter in support of the resolution has garnered 481 signatures of support in a letter from students, alumni and faculty from both De Anza and Foothill at the time of writing. La Voz has obtained a copy of the list of signatures and can verify the list’s authenticity.

The resolution was introduced to the Academic Senate on Feb. 5 and ended up in its current form on March 18, more than a week before the FA statement. This came after four rounds of edits, including several from Brian Evans from the Business and Social Sciences division. Evans would later bring the motion to declare the resolution out of purview to the floor.

“There are not two equal sides in a colonial relationship,” Mamedov-Turchinsky said. “Refusing to use their positions to address the ongoing genocide in Gaza acquiesces power to Israel and the United States to continue on their trajectory of massacre because they know they can get away with it.”

Brian Evans (left) moves to deem the resolution not in the senate’s purview, next to Karen Allison Meezan (right). (Ann Penalosa)

The votes to declare the motion out of purview came Evans, Mona Rawal from the Business and Social Sciences division, Ana Maravilla from the Veterans Resource Center, Robert Hartwell and Kate Jordahl from Fine Arts and Communication, Rachelle Campbell and Brenda Hanning from Health Sciences and Horticulture, Rita O’Loughlin from Kinesiology and Athletics, Rocio Giraldez Betron from Language Arts, part-time faculty representative Michael Chang, Chair of the Committee on Online Learning Allison Lenkeit Meezan and the Associated Students of Foothill College President Joshua Agupugo.

Voting against the motion to declare the resolution out of purview were Tracee Cunningham from the Counseling division, Stephanie Chan from Language Arts, Destiny Rivera and Eric Reed from the Library and Learning Resource Center, Sara Cooper from STEM, classified staff representative Adiel Velasquez, Faculty Association representative Julie Jenkins, Carolyn Holcroft from the Professional Development division and Executive Vice President Patrick Morriss.

Students with Foothill’s Social Justice Club make kites as part of the art installation. (Ann Penalosa)

Part-time representative Roxanne Cnudde, cabinet member Stacy Gleixner, Vice President of Curriculum Ben Kaupp and Secretary-Treasurer Robert Cormia abstained from voting.

Hours before the Academic Senate met, dozens of students and faculty joined the Social Justice Club in making kites, reading poetry and taking in the art installation.

The installation itself features several poems from Palestinian poets on boards, as well as children’s clothes hung on clotheslines that span the library quad, with each piece of clothing representing a Palestinian child killed in Gaza.

More children’s clothes on a clothesline, at the art installation. (Ann Penalosa)

“We invite you to see these symbolic representations of life as a counter-narrative to Western media, which continues to manufacture stories that dehumanize Palestinian lives and diminish the atrocity of such a loss of life, especially that of children,” Jinnah said in a speech at the installation. “When we lose that value for others’ humanity, we create a world where such violence and death is normalized and excused as merely a ‘casualty of war.’”

Jinnah’s full speech, primarily written by Suzy Quezada, and recordings of the featured poems can be found on the installation’s website. She then asked the participants to observe a moment of silence to honor the loss of life in Gaza.

A sign on the art installation that reads “every chain on this thread represents the lost life of a Palestinian child in the last 184 days.” (Ann Penalosa)

Celeste Huang, 19, an English major at Foothill College, said the poem “We never left, Palestine” caught their eye the most.

As the installation continued, Charles “CJ” Toledo, 24, a psychology and communications major and former Editor-in-Chief of The Script, distributed chalk to students at the event and started making chalk art in the library quad.

“I’ve been doing chalk art since early 2023 on campus and for a year or two before that,” Toledo said. “They (administration) never started to have a problem until it went more directly against genocide. Once they started censoring the genocide chalk art they started scrubbing all of my stuff; even stuff like trees, flowers, hearts and good vibes.”

Charles “CJ” Toledo, 24, a psychology and communications major and former Editor-in-Chief of The Script, creates chalk art in Foothill’s library quad. (Ann Penalosa)

Toledo said he was called in for a meeting with Foothill Dean of Students, Student Affairs and Activities Catalina Rodriguez, who he said told him he was only allowed to put chalk in the “free speech area” at Cesar Chavez plaza; he also said that Foothill President Kristina Whalen “backpedaled and said (he only couldn’t create chalk art) on major walkways.”

“At a certain point I knew they were going to start taking down the chalk so I started taking pictures of it,” Toledo said. “That way I could at least show they were censoring things.”

In the weeks following the resolution’s initial discussion, Maya Bronicki, a Los Altos resident, circulated a rebuttal document to Jinnah’s resolution where community members changed the wording from the original resolution, including removing about a third of the resolution’s original text such as sections describing Israel’s siege of Gaza as genocide as well as sections that call for a ceasefire and adding in language about Foothill College’s adoption of the IHRA working definition of antisemitism, which defined anti-Zionism as inherently antisemitic, on Oct. 22, 2020.

Bronicki’s document also includes the Foothill Academic Senate’s “10+1” guidelines on what they consider to be in their purview.

Additionally, Tal Shalon, a Los Altos Hills resident who has cowritten several letters to the Los Altos Town Crier, wrote an open letter to several people at Foothill, including Foothill Academic Senate President Voltaire Villanueva and Foothill President Whalen, which the organization Hillel of Silicon Valley later circulated in multiple Facebook posts. Shalon has also compiled the changes mentioned in Bronicki’s document into an “alternative” resolution.

Neither Shalon nor Bronicki have public points of contact and could not be reached for comment on the alternate resolution, the letter or its signature count.

“The resolution’s title is misleading,” Executive Director of Hillel of Silicon Valley Sarita Bronstein said in a statement to La Voz. “It takes a position on an international conflict, not on student safety. In fact, its passing would have jeopardized Jewish students at Foothill.”

Bronstein said that the resolution was riddled with misinformation, the use of biased sources and “troubling accusations against the State of Israel.”

“These errors, the inflammatory tone of the statements, and the manipulation of the truth are dangerous because they may lead to hatred against Jews and even violence,” Bronstein said. “There have been over 1,200 incidents of antisemitism on 150 campuses since Oct. 7, an increase of 600% over the same time last year.”

Bronstein commended the Academic Senate for refusing to debate a resolution that would take a position on Gaza, saying they showed leadership in doing so.

“A resolution such as this one would undoubtedly have a negative impact on the campus culture,” Bronstein said. “It would only help to divide the campus community and lead to Jewish students feeling marginalized, unwelcomed, and unrepresented. This resolution does not promote civil discourse, unity, or a conducive campus climate for learning. The vote, while close, demonstrates that the faculty of this college is more concerned with creating a space for dialogue and education than it is with political posturing. We (Hillel of Silicon Valley) applaud their efforts.”

Two academic senators, Student Learning Outcomes Coordinator Kerri Ryer and Leti Serna from the Counseling division, were unable to vote. Ryer had a class during the first half of the Academic Senate meeting and thus could not vote, while Serna was active over Zoom but not acknowledged; she was not going to be there and requested a proxy vote late, so she was denied as a result. A third academic senator, Dixie Macias from Kinesiology and Athletics, was absent.

Foothill Academic Senate Secretary-Treasurer Robert Cormia addresses the public during debate on whether or not the item is purview. (Ann Penalosa)

At the start of the meeting, when moving to adopt the agenda, Cormia moved to indefinitely postpone the resolution, a motion which was unanimously voted down; however, discussion to strike the action took up half an hour. Rather than ending at 2:05 p.m., adoption of the agenda ended at 2:34 p.m.

Foothill’s Academic Senate meetings last a maximum of two hours as several professors serving as senators have 4:00 p.m. classes. The resolution was placed at the very end of the agenda.

As students began to enter the room, Villanueva refused to provide the room’s ventilation capacity; after the Academic Senate’s 10 minute break, when more community members who opposed the resolution had arrived, Villanueva gave the public that number.

Foothill Academic Senate President Victor Villanueva strikes up conversation with a member of the public during the 10 minute recess. (Ann Penalosa)

Additionally, during the beginning of the meeting, Villanueva prohibited the public from being outside the designated public area for the duration of the meeting; after the break, a member of the public that opposed the resolution stood where the Academic Senate designated as off-limits to the public. It took at least 10 minutes for Villanueva to address the member of the public and ask him to return to the designated public area.

During the discussion, Villanueva read out an email the Academic Senate received from Hillel of Silicon Valley. He then read a letter from Foothill-De Anza Board of Trustees President Peter Landsberger regarding the resolution and how it could open them up to litigation, then invited Landsberger to speak on it for about 10 minutes, during which he said the resolution itself was a problem.

“No one is in favor, not one ‘aye.’ That was a 30 minute discussion about a motion that didn’t even have one supporter,” Huang said during the meeting. “They are letting him speak as a member of the public because he sent in a letter, but we also sent in letters. Let Nicole (Nguyen) and Liza (Mamedov-Turchinsky) speak, then.”

The Academic Senate did not acknowledge the student letter circulated by the Foothill Social Justice Club or the signatures it garnered. As students and faculty chatted over Zoom for the letter in support of the ceasefire resolution to also be read, at around 2:20 p.m. the Academic Senate disabled the Zoom chat.

The one public comment during the allotted time for non-agenda items pertained to the resolution; the Foothill Academic Senate continued to entertain it and refused to cut the speaker off until they finished speaking, then told the public they would not entertain any other comments on the agenda item.

As the public had an opportunity to comment on the March 18 Academic Senate meeting, the senate did not provide an opportunity for the public to comment during this meeting.

“This is a public comment on an item on the agenda,” Nicole Nguyen, 19, a sociology major and the Foothill Student Trustee, said. “Why is nobody stopping them?”

During the discussion around Evans’ motion to declare the resolution out of purview, Cooper pointed out how the senate voted on resolutions for faculty anti-racism leadership and in support of Black students’ mental health.

Evans then responded that the comparison was like “apples to oranges” and said that it was not the Foothill Academic Senate’s jurisdiction to act, despite what he described as “the outpouring of emotion” at the March 18 meeting.

“We are at 10 minutes until the end of the meeting and they are currently discussing if the resolution is purview, not even discussing the resolution itself,” Huang said. “They’re voting that it’s not in purview because they don’t want to vote against (the resolution itself). I don’t think that’s appropriate.”

Fatima Jinnah holds back tears while talking to students outside the Krause Center for Innovation. (Ann Penalosa)

Shortly after the meeting came to an end, La Voz’s staff was physically and verbally harassed and pressured to leave the Krause Center. Another student who wishes to remain anonymous said they were repeatedly kicked during the board meeting, while they sat on the floor.

“I am heartbroken that faculty, at an institution that purports to value equity and understand that equity requires an uplifting of marginalized perspectives and experiences, shut down those same marginalized voices,” Jinnah said. “I imagine the cognitive dissonance is strong for them right now and I hope they reconsider and change course. As a faculty member, we are expected to have principles and values that we uphold. We should not cower just because the dominant voices are powerful and highly resourced.”

“To be clear, I also am apalled at the actions of the Israeli government — and I have never supported the settlements they have pushed into the West Bank,” Evans wrote in a statement after the meeting. “The point was not to show support for the Israeli government; it was that the way this resolution was framed was seen as threatening to the Jewish community … I wish the authors had listened to the concerned voices on March 18 and amended this resolution to look like the (Santa Clara) one.”

The Foothill Academic Senate will hold their next meeting on Monday, April 22 from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

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Ann Penalosa
Ann Penalosa, Co-Managing Editor
a.k.a. mtndewkid, gabunomigrl.

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