A letter-writing campaign organized by the Graduate Labor Organization’s Palestinian Solidarity Caucus has sent roughly 14,000 letters to the University as of February.
The campaign, launched Dec. 17, calls on the University to drop its charges against the 41 students — all members of the Brown Divest Coalition — arrested for their trespassing in a University Hall sit-in demanding divestment. It also demanded that arrested students be exempt from internal discipline and that the University divest from “companies that facilitate violence against Palestinians,” according to the letters.
The Herald spoke to the PSC on the condition that members, who cited safety concerns, be identified as a group.
The organization published two letter templates directed toward President Christina Paxson P’19 P’MD’20, the Office of Institutional Equity & Diversity and 15 other University administrators and departments, as well as instructions on filing a bias incident report.
“Students, alumni, parents (and) Providence community members, all of these demographics have told us they’ve been sending the emails/letters,” the PSC wrote. “The letters/emails are being sent to 15 administrators who we understand to be part of President Paxson’s cabinet, including Paxson herself.”
The campaign follows a PSC petition that advocated for divestment, protection for student activists, University support for a ceasefire in Gaza and an end to military aid from the U.S. to Israel.
“There has been no change in status regarding the charges filed on Dec. 11,” University Spokesperson Brian Clark wrote in an email to the Herald.
“The students were charged with ‘willful trespass within school buildings’ (R.I. Gen. Laws 11-44-26.1) and earlier this month, Brown agreed to a request for postponement of court appearances to accommodate student schedules,” Clark continued.
The students are slated to appear in court starting Feb. 12, The Herald previously reported.
Clark wrote that the University’s endowment is invested “through external specialist investment managers, all with the highest level of ethics and all whom we believe share the values of the Brown community … This includes the rejection of violence.”
Clark added that while the University cannot provide students with specific details on its investments due to “confidentiality provisions” in “contracts with investment managers,” Brown “has long-established principles for exploring the question of divestment.”
“Divestment from companies can be considered if the company’s products or activities create social harm and divestment would help remedy this harm,” Clark wrote, adding that it should also not be used to “demonstrate financial power” or “wield political influence.”
Clark stressed that the University’s endowment does not directly invest in “defense stocks or large munitions manufacturers” and pointed to the University’s publicly available Securities and Exchange Commission filings and annual endowment reports available on its website.
“Any member of the Brown community can request that the University divest the Brown endowment from the assets of specific companies” by submitting a proposal through the Advisory Committee on University Resource Management, Clark wrote.
He also pointed to the Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Practices’s 2020 recommendation for divestment.
“This proposal could not have been implemented as written, since it did not include clear standards for identifying which companies would be subject to divestment,” he wrote. “In addition, it did not articulate how financial divestment from the companies, however defined, would address social harm.”
Clark added that all divestment proposals submitted to ACURM “will be addressed, following the protocols that are enumerated in the committee’s charge.”
“The letter campaign won’t stop until the 41 arrested students get their charges dropped, and get exempt from internal discipline,” the PSC wrote to The Herald. The “Palestine Solidarity Caucus and the broader movement aren’t going anywhere. We will keep pushing for divestment until we get it. It is our duty as teachers, and scholars and humans.”
Kate Butts is a Senior Staff Writer covering University Hall. Outside of the Herald, she loves running, board games and Trader Joe's snacks.