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Arizona bill seeks to allow students to fund various groups amid antisemitism claims

Posted 2/5/24

PHOENIX — Saying students should not have to fund antisemitism, the state House gave preliminary approval Monday to legislation allowing students to keep their mandated fees from going to …

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Arizona bill seeks to allow students to fund various groups amid antisemitism claims


PHOENIX — Saying students should not have to fund antisemitism, the state House gave preliminary approval Monday to legislation allowing students to keep their mandated fees from going to certain organizations.

The voice vote came after Rep. Alexander Kolodin said Jewish students at the state’s three universities have been encountering “some really virulent groups that call for the destruction of the Jewish people.

“Now, they have every right to do this under the First Amendment,” said the Scottsdale Republican who is Jewish. “But what they don’t have the right to do is force Jewish students to subsidize those calls for their own destruction, and the destruction of their friends and family.”

Kolodin specifically mentioned Students for Justice for Palestine, which has chapters at all three universities.

And he said the groups are entitled to have their views. But he also said there is a constitutional right of other students not to have to help finance those views.

The vote for Senate Bill 2178 came over the objections of some lawmakers who said the Board of Regents has expressed concern about how they would administer such a system. There were also questions about whether such a measure is necessary, saying any overtly antisemitic activities already violate each school’s policies.

Rep. Judy Schwiebert, D-Phoenix, said these issues should be addressed at the university level.

That, however, did not impress Rep. David Marshall.

“Those bylaws were being violated left and right due to the protests,” said the Snowflake Republican. “And the university did nothing to stop it.”

Marshall also said officials from the universities were asked to testify at a hearing before the House Education Committee.

“They would not respond,” he said. “That’s a lack of care.”

Finn Howe, president of the Arizona State University chapter, denied during committee testimony that his organization is antisemitic. And he said its membership includes Jews who take the position that the Palestinians are being denied their rights.

Howe also said denying it funds, which would be the effect, would undermine other programs it conducts, like bringing labor union officials to campus.

But Kolodin said, whatever the official position, that doesn’t override the words being spoken at demonstrations he said are supported by groups like that.

“From the river to the sea,” he said, quoting some of the protests by those who seek a state of Palestine where Israel now exists. “And we all know what that means.”

Kolodin, in promoting the measure on the House floor on Monday, lashed out at those who were not supporting the measure.

“When any other group needs something to protect themselves, we as a body we view it as this is our duty to protect our fellow Arizonans,” he said. “And, certainly, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle are even more vocal about that kind of thing, sometimes in a way that I think they take to an extreme.”

Kolodin did not cite specifics. But Democrats have taken positions against Republican-sponsored measures they believe discriminate against people based on gender, sexual orientation or race.

“But when Jewish students come with a simple request — do not make us fund calls for our own genocide — suddenly there’s a workability problem,” he said.

Kolodin said at least part of the fault for all this lies with the schools.

“In fact, the university knows very well how to change its bylaws — or ignore them — or its rules when it suits anybody but Jewish students,” he said, citing policies that, he said, on paper, already prohibit this kind of conduct.

“But they are not heeded,” Kolodin continued. “So do not let workability, do not let the concerns of a specious nature, do not let these be used to blind your eyes to your duty to defend religious liberty and the freedom of Arizona students to practice their religion without having to fund calls for its destruction.”

ASU did cancel a planned on-campus event last year where Democratic Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, who had been censured by the U.S. House for defending Hamas and calling for the destruction of Israel. But school officials said that was not about the content but the fact the speech was being sponsored by the Arizona Palestine Network, which is not an on-campus organization.

Before Monday’s vote, Kolodin said he did recognize there could be logistical issues in letting students decide which clubs or organizations should receive his or her own share of student fees. So he amended the measure to turn it around.

Now students could list one or more groups that would be denied any part of their fees, with the difference divided up among all the other clubs. And there would be no change in the distribution of those who made no special request.

A final roll-call vote is needed before the measure goes to the Senate.