As members of the Corporation, the University’s highest governing body and fiduciary, gathered at the Faculty Club early Friday morning for their February meeting, around 20 members of Students for Justice in Palestine and the Graduate Labor Organization were stationed outside the building, ready to greet Corporation members and promote SJP’s “Divest and Democratize” campaign.
SJP and GLO members carried signs and distributed fliers to arriving Corporation members, calling for the University to “withdraw investments in securities, endowments, mutual funds and other monetary instruments with holdings in companies” that the group said are “profiting from Israeli apartheid and (are) complicit in human rights abuses against Palestinians,” according to the flier.
Several Corporation members took fliers from protesters and stopped to speak with SJP and GLO organizers about their demands.
In the past two years, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch — two major human rights organizations — published reports alleging that the actions of the Israeli government toward Palestinians amount to apartheid.
In March 2020, the University’s Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Policies released a report recommending that the University divest from “any company that profits from the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.”
President Christina Paxson P’19 did not publicly address the report until March 2021, when she shared a letter with ACCRIP’s successor body, the Advisory Committee on University Resources Management. In the letter, Paxson wrote that ACCRIP’s report findings lacked rigorous research and specificity, prompting her not to advance the matter to the Corporation for consideration.
Protesters also called for the University to “democratize the Corporation” by increasing transparency regarding the University’s investments and making the Corporation’s activities more accessible to the University community — such as by implementing “open forums for Brown community members to dialogue with the Corporation,” according to the flier.
According to Eli Grossman ’24, an organizer for SJP, “democratization” of the Corporation would make it easier for students to engage with the body’s members and for other activist groups to pursue their agendas of endowment divestment.
According to Anila Lopez Marks ’26, another organizer for SJP, “ ‘Divest and Democratize’ … absolutely extends to the interests of a lot of activist groups on campus because at its core, the Corporation and Brown’s endowment is what steers a lot of our capacity to invest and make a difference.”
“I think we are generally well received” by Corporation members, Grossman told The Herald. “There were definitely people who brushed us off, but that's to be expected. We appreciated (that) people took our fliers and that some (members) did stop and talk with us.”
“Brown is a learning community strengthened by expression of the wide range of views held by individuals and groups on campus,” wrote University Spokesperson Brian Clark in an email to The Herald. “Each of us as members is free to debate and protest while respecting the freedom of others to disagree.”
Beckett Warzer GS, an organizer for GLO, explained that GLO members joined the protest “to demand that Brown invest in grads and not (Israeli) apartheid.”
SJP organizers told The Herald that they hope to continue advocating for divestment and voice their concerns to the Corporation in the future.
“We plan to continue (being) present and annoying them, even in the slightest sense, to continue to remind them that there is a desire for accountability and there is a student presence that cares” about how the endowment is invested, Lopez Marks said.
“We don't forget the tremendous decision-making power that (the Corporation has), and we're hoping to be consistently vocal whenever we have the opportunity, like the rare occurrences when they are together as a corporation,” said Jack Doughty ’23, an organizer for SJP. “Throughout this semester, we hope to be a continuous presence.”
Sam Levine is a University News editor from Brooklyn, New York overseeing the staff and student labor and on-campus activism beats. He is a sophomore concentrating in International and Public Affairs.