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MAURER: Student sacrifices integrity to win vote

June 18, 2016

Mickey MaurerThe lunatics have taken over the asylum.

(Said of a situation where those in charge are incapable of handling their responsibilities.)


The Student Senate at the University of Indianapolis recently passed a resolution calling on the university to divest money from corporations supporting the Israeli government. This resolution and the movement of which it is a part arise out of a flawed equation of Israeli society with the former South African apartheid system. The issue is too complex to fully parse within the confines of this column. Rather, I will discuss how leaders of this university allowed the issue to be adjudicated by the Student Senate in a deceitful way with utter disregard for fairness and ethics—values that universities are supposed to impart to students.

Earlier this year, a group calling itself UIndy Students for Justice in Palestine, led by senior Zak Mitiche, introduced the divestment proposal to the Student Senate. It was on the agenda for Feb. 27. Lindsey Mintz, representing the Jewish community as executive director of the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council, asked the president of the Student Senate and Senate advisers, Dean of Students Corey Vitangeli and the Assistant Dean of Students Joe Thomas, to reschedule the discussion and vote to a date other than a Saturday due to the Jewish Sabbath. Vitangeli and Thomas assured the Jewish community there would not be a vote, just discussion. Nonetheless, a vote was taken. The resolution failed.

Students for Justice in Palestine sponsored a year-long campaign to delegitimize Israel on campus by painting Israel as a “settler colonial power” and apartheid state. Its programs inundated the student body with false and misleading information, culminating in a week-long series of anti-Israel events, including the hanging of virulent anti-Israel posters in the Schwitzer Student Center. The boiling cauldron of hate, which the University of Indianapolis allowed, inspired at least one act of anti-Semitism. Less than a week after the divestment resolution failed, a swastika was found carved into a statue in the Schwitzer Student Center.

Although the vote failed in late February, the JCRC learned on March 29 the resolution would be reconsidered on April 2. Again, a request from the Jewish community that the discussion and vote not be on a Saturday was ignored. Moreover, neither the deans nor Student Senate leadership made it clear to the student body that the resolution would come back for another vote and that it likely would take place April 2. No explanation was offered why reconsideration of the resolution was appropriate given that it was already voted down.

At the very least, University of Indianapolis leaders failed to ensure a sound and transparent process for adjudication of this issue. The April 2 Senate meeting was closed to the public. Many students who wished to speak were not allowed to do so. The vote was anonymous and secret. Senate officers counted the votes without administration oversight. The meeting notice stated the agenda would focus on preparing for the following year.

The reconsideration procedure allowed all non-senator students who were present to vote. Armed with this information in advance, Mitiche rallied his friends and followers to come to the meeting whether they were Senate members or not. The fix was in. The resolution passed by one vote. (The resolution would have failed under a tally of only student senator votes.)

We should expect more from an institution that bears our city’s name, an institution that once boasted officers who—without sacrificing the free exchange of ideas so important on a college campus—guided the institution on a path of human rights and decency.

I feel sorry for student Zac Mitiche, whose zealous behavior was allowed to run unchecked. His win-at-all-cost mentality involving underhanded and deceitful tactics was implicitly encouraged and condoned by university leadership. The deans failed this young man. I understand that he is a bright student who will seek a graduate degree. Perhaps it is not too late for him to learn that the essence of success is achievement with ethics intact—with class.•

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Maurer is a shareholder in IBJ Corp., which owns Indianapolis Business Journal. His column appears every other week. To comment on this column, send e-mail to mmaurer@ibj.com.

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