While members of Boston University Anti-War Coalition urged Student Government to take a stance against the sanctions in Iran during a debate Wednesday night, members of BU Students for Israel said they wanted to avoid SG making a decision on behalf of all students.
“There’s often polarization that happens in politics and I don’t want that on this campus,” said Rachel DuShey, co-president of BU Students for Israel. “It’s not about being polarized — it’s about conversations, it’s about resolutions.”
About 50 students went to the Photonics building to hear arguments made for and against SG taking a stand on the sanctions as a voice of the BU population.
DuShey, a College of Communication junior, said she attended the debate not to convince any individual to support the sanctions, but rather to urge SG to remain neutral.
“I’m just here to show that I don’t believe in someone coming to the table and saying ‘this is what I believe and the thousands of people at this university should agree with me and go in direct opposition to the U.S.,’” she said. “I believe in open discussion beforehand.”
Members of the AWC debated to convince SG to take a stance against the U.S. sanctions on Iran.
“Last October the United Nations noted that the sanctions were having significant effects on the civilian population [in Iran], including an escalation in inflation, price of commodities and energy costs, an increase in the rate of unemployment and a shortage of necessary items, including medicine,” said AWC member Kristen Martin.
Martin, a College of Arts and Sciences senior, said students should be concerned about the sanctions because some Iranian civilians directly rely on U.S. economic support for survival.
She said one part of the sanctions target Iran’s importation of refined gasoline. Since the U.S. started to target gasoline imports, Iran has been forced to refine its gasoline without the technological ability to do so, which has led to an exacerbation of Iran’s emissions and pollution crisis.
Iran’s pollution kills approximately 45,000 Iranians each year according to Tehran’s municipal government, Martin said.
DuShey, however, said the sanctions target trade and imports, not the Iranian people.
“The sanctions aren’t intended to have harsh effects on the population. I think everyone in this room can agree that negative effects on individuals and civilians is not something that anyone can support,” DuShey said. “However, my question is why the Iranian government doesn’t respond to their people’s suffering.”
DuShey said if not for the sanctions, Iran might pose a serious threat to U.S. civilians, which should also be cause for concern.
“There is a serious nuclear threat that Iran poses to civilians,” DuShey said. “Which civilians? Civilians in the U.S., because of the anti-U.S. rhetoric.”
Nikitasha Aggarwal, a Sargent College of Rehabilitation Sciences senior, said the debate went well and both sides prepared as best as they could.
“The Anti-War Coalition did have a lot of facts and they brought a lot more facts, numbers, data and historical events to the table — to the discussion,” she said. “I wish I heard some more facts from the other BU Students for Israel.”
Zach Schwartz, a College of Fine Arts senior and a SG senator, said he appreciated the amount of people who came out to voice their opinions but had an issue with the idea that, in taking a stand to support wither perspective, SG would be speaking for all of BU.
“We in senate have to keep in mind every time we’re here is that we are not only representing ourselves,” he said. “I represent the couple thousand people in the CFA.”
He said he wished the event had been publicized earlier and that members of the audience and of SG were given more background information before the debate.
“Yes, it was informative, yes they were presenting some empirical stuff,” Schwartz said. “But it would have been even better if we had had, generally, a little bit more context coming in.”