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Hunger strike day six: Students hold campus sit-in, rally after striker drops out

Students plan to participate in 36-hour “solidarity fast” starting Thursday

A group of protestors plans to return to the Campus Center on Thursday morning to commence a “solidarity fast” that will last 36 hours. During that time, the protestors plan to remain in the Campus Center, according to Wednesday’s statement.
A group of protestors plans to return to the Campus Center on Thursday morning to commence a “solidarity fast” that will last 36 hours. During that time, the protestors plan to remain in the Campus Center, according to Wednesday’s statement.

Editor’s Note: To help inform The Herald’s ongoing coverage, please fill out this form with your questions about the February hunger strike.

On Wednesday, 18 student protesters started the sixth day of their hunger strike — now the “largest and longest hunger strike for Palestine in the U.S.,” according to a statement by the strikers shared with The Herald. The Herald was unable to identify a larger hunger strike for Palestine since Oct. 7 in the United States.

Participation in the strike has decreased from 19 students after one participant dropped out of the strike on Tuesday due to a positive COVID-19 test, according to strike spokesperson Sam Stewart ’24. The striker is in good health, Stewart said.


What happened Wednesday?

On Wednesday, the Graduate Labor Organization — which adopted divestment as the group’s “spring campaign” — held a rally with roughly 300 attendees on the Main Green, where organizers encouraged students to walk out of classes in solidarity with the strike. 

Following the rally, protest organizers led attendees into the Stephen Robert ’62 Campus Center, where students plan to hold a sit-in until 12:00 a.m. Feb. 8 — the start date of the Corporation’s meetings, where protesting students demand the University hear a divestment resolution.

A group of protestors plans to return to the Campus Center on Thursday morning to commence a “solidarity fast” that will last 36 hours. During that time, the protestors plan to remain in the Campus Center, according to Wednesday’s statement.

“Brown staff members continue to communicate with the students conducting the hunger strike and others in the Campus Center,” University Spokesperson Brian Clark wrote in an email to The Herald. “In particular, they are sharing guidance on Brown policies and protocols related to protest and demonstrations, and ensuring that students know that Brown has a range of resources to provide care related to physical and emotional health, should those be needed.”

Stewart told The Herald that the strikers “have been and will continue to work closely with (the Student Activities Office), as we have since the start of the strike, to ensure that we are in compliance with the University’s Code of Conduct regulations.”

In December, 41 students were arrested after conducting a sit-in at University Hall to demand that the University divest from “Israeli military occupation.” The students were arrested under trespassing charges for remaining in a “secure, non-residential building after operating hours,” according to Clark.

The Campus Center, the location of Wednesday’s sit-in and Thursday’s solidarity fast, is open for student access with Brown ID for 24 hours, according to Campus Center Hours of Operation.

The University’s protest policy states that any demonstrations that will “interfere with the rights of others to make use of or enjoy the facilities or attend the functions of the University cannot be tolerated.”

The protest also featured the announcement of the Third World Labor Organization — a newly formed union for student employees in the Brown Center for Students of Color. Read additional Herald coverage of the announcement here.


The presence of pro-Palestinian chalk designs on sidewalks around campus has increased. On Wednesday afternoon, members of the University’s Facilities Management began removing them via powerwashing. Later that day, student activists re-chalked their designs.

Facilities Management did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Brown Divest Coalition announced in an Instagram post that they would no longer publicize a daily “strikers’ schedule” as they had in past days due to instructions from SAO that the advertisements could be interpreted as “promoting ‘unregistered events’ that may lead to student conduct violations for our strikers.”

SAO did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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The demands

The 18 student protestors are still refusing food until the Corporation — the University’s highest governing body — “hears and considers a divestment proposal” during its meetings that begin Thursday. The proposal, the strikers say, should be consistent with the 2020 report by the University’s Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Practices that recommended divestment from “companies which profit from human rights abuses in Palestine.”

Paxson previously refused to bring ACCRIP’s recommendations to the Corporation for consideration, saying that the report “did not meet established standards” for divestment. On Friday, she maintained this position and refused to revisit her decision. She also denied the protestors’ request for a Corporation divestment resolution.

Instead, she encouraged the protestors to submit a divestment proposal to the Advisory Committee on University Resource Management — the successor to ACCRIP — instead of demanding a Corporation resolution.

The protestors have refused this referral to ACURM, saying that the length of time required to consider this proposal in the committee is “an untenable timeline given the urgency of the crisis in Gaza,” according to a statement from strike organizers to The Herald. 

Past demonstrators, including the 41 students who were arrested during a December sit-in on trespassing charges, were previously referred to ACURM when they demanded divestment from “Israeli military occupation.” 

What investments does the University hold?

At a November public meeting, representatives from the University’s Investment Office told attendees that Brown’s direct investments do not include weapons manufacturing or those with direct ties to Israel.

In a Sunday email, University Spokesperson Brian Clark echoed this statement writing that Brown is “not directly invested in any defense stocks or large munitions manufacturers.”

A large portion of the University’s endowment is invested in external managers with portfolios that are undisclosed under contractual confidentiality provisions.

The University has only passed two full, official divestment resolutions in the past, The Herald previously reported.

At the November meeting, the Investment Office said none of these portfolios focus on weapons manufacturing and they select “managers whose values are aligned with the Brown community.”

Clark also wrote on Sunday that the University is “confident that our external managers have the highest level of ethics and share the values of the Brown community, including the rejection of violence.”

What health safeguards do the strikers have in place?

As the strike continues, worries for the health of the strikers have grown. One striker left the strike on the fifth day after being diagnosed with COVID-19.

Prior to the strike, physicians advised that “in the event of a COVID-19 infection, the striker should drop out due to the unknown long-term effects of COVID-19 on a fasted body,” Stewart told The Herald.

The protestors were also cleared to participate in the strike by individual consultation with physicians prior to the demonstration, The Herald previously reported.

“All strikers have been testing for COVID daily and constantly wearing high quality masks, as has anyone who has interacted with them — everyone else continues to test negative and no one is symptomatic,” Stewart added.

According to Stewart, “there are thorough contingency plans in place in case of an emergency” as they continue “monitoring vitals regularly to ensure we are up to date on striker health.”

In a Friday letter to the protestors, Paxson encouraged the students to “safeguard (their) health and well-being” while exercising their “right to protest.” She also highlighted University mental health and well-being resources. 

She added that “protest is also unacceptable if it creates a substantial threat to personal safety of any member of the community.”

The University previously disenrolled four students participating in a hunger strike protesting the University’s partial divestment policy of South African apartheid in the 1980s. The then-administration cited health and liability concerns for the disenrollment, according to a 1986 article by The Herald.

What comes next?

The Corporation will begin its meetings on Thursday — the same day that over 200 students plan to occupy the Campus Center as part of a “solidarity fast.”

The agendas of Corporation meetings are not disclosed to the public, according to Senior Vice President for Communications Cass Cliatt.

Owen Dahlkamp

Owen Dahlkamp is a Section Editor overseeing coverage for University News and Science & Research. Hailing from San Diego, CA, he is concentrating in political science and cognitive neuroscience with an interest in data analytics. In his free time, you can find him making spreadsheets at Dave’s Coffee.

Samantha Chambers

Samantha is a University News editor who oversees the Affinity & Activism beat. She is a sophomore from Tampa, Florida concentrating in Sociology. In her free time, Samantha likes to cook and watch Survivor.

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