Students were subjected to harassment and intimidation after attempting to get a bill to define antisemitism passed by MSU’s student government.
Over the past several weeks, as the Jewish Student Union at Michigan State University has worked to codify a definition of antisemitism in the ASMSU General Assembly (MSU’s student government) — to protect Jewish students from hate and hurt and educate the community about one of the oldest forms of bigotry — our students have been subjected to harassment and intimidation in a way that would not be acceptable toward any other student group.
While the initial bill to define antisemitism passed the ASMSU with an 81% majority on March 18, we were told days later that a significant number of representatives did not read the bill and that the approved bill would be vetoed unless it was amended to reflect changes to the definition that go against the values of our community.
After many uncomfortable discussions regarding how to move forward, we were elated to hear directly from leaders in our student government that the bill would be signed as-is. But during the public comment of the April 1 ASMSU General Assembly meeting, we were made aware that the promise made to our organization would not be kept and that our bill would be opened for reconsideration during a special meeting April 6.
During both the April 1 and April 6 ASMSU meetings, our Jewish community was made to feel victimized and condemned. We were subjected to more than two hours of speeches by faceless and nameless commenters — speaking anonymously during a virtual public meeting — about how a definition of antisemitism hurts them. During the process of considering this bill and the subsequent attempt to reconsider it, our bill was weaponized against us for political gain. After numerous conversations, we came to the difficult decision to rescind the original bill, after it became clear it would no longer pass and further debate would only continue harassment and intimidation of Jewish students. Our backs were against a wall and we wanted to prevent students in our community from facing continued hostility and villainization.
This entire process has taken a mental and emotional toll on our Jewish community. It’s sad that this fell during and just after Passover, a time celebrating freedom and renewal. It’s also incredibly depressing that we were discussing this on the eve of Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, when we honor the memory of 6 million Jews who perished simply because they were Jewish. We call for the university community to continue to be educated about antisemitism. The JSU and Michigan State Hillel stand ready to educate and engage our campus community about this important topic.
ASMSU claims to represent all students at MSU, but throughout this disingenuous process they have only succeeded in alienating more than 3,000 Jewish students — leaving our community feeling more alone and isolated than ever. As representatives of the Jewish student community at MSU, we have the right to define what antisemitism and discrimination against us looks like, the same as all other communities on campus.
We are grateful to MSU Hillel for our partnership in navigating this difficult situation. Though ASMSU did not support our resolution, our efforts will continue to create a definition of antisemitism that protects all MSU Jewish students. We will all be stronger Spartans for it.
Jewish Student Union Student Leadership