President Christina Paxson P’19 P’MD’20 has declined to meet the demands of 19 student protestors who began a hunger strike Friday afternoon, according to a letter Paxson sent to the demonstrators and reviewed by The Herald.
On Friday, the protestors announced that the strike would continue until the Corporation, the University’s highest governing body, “hears and considers a divestment resolution” in the ongoing Israel-Palestine war during their meetings that begin next week.
In her letter to the protestors, Paxson wrote that the first step toward requesting divestment “is not a Corporation resolution, but rather to submit a proposal to the Advisory Committee on University Resource Management.”
Paxson also wrote that she will “not commit to bring a resolution to the February 2024 Corporation meeting or any future meeting of the Corporation.”
The strikers did not immediately respond to request for comment. University Spokesperson Brian Clark wrote in an email to The Herald that the administration’s “understanding at this time is that students will continue their hunger strike.”
Paxson previously encouraged student protestors to submit a proposal to ACURM during a December 2023 sit-in staged in University Hall during which 41 students were arrested on trespassing charges. During the demonstration, students called attention to a 2020 divestment recommendation made by the Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Policies — the predecessor to ACURM — The Herald previously reported.
The 19 students engaged in the strike demanded that any proposed divestment resolution be consistent with the report, which recommended divestment from “companies which profit from human rights abuses in Palestine.”
In a March 2021 letter, Paxson decided not to bring ACCRIP’s proposal to the Corporation for consideration, asserting that “the recommendation did not adequately address the requirements for rigorous analysis and research as laid out in ACCRIP’s charge, nor was there the requisite level of specificity in regard to divestment.”
“The bar for divestment is high,” Paxson wrote to the protestors Friday. “It requires a demonstration that the University’s investments in the assets of specific companies create social harm, and that divestment will alleviate that harm.”
“Our campus is a place where difficult issues should be freely discussed and debated. It is not appropriate for the University to use its financial assets — which are there to support our entire community — to ‘take a side’ on issues on which thoughtful people vehemently disagree,” she added.
At the end of the letter, Paxson wrote that she “encouraged” students to work with Campus Life in the protest and “safeguard (their) health and well-being” when exercising their “right to protest.” She also highlighted University mental health and well-being resources.
The students were screened by a doctor prior to their participation in the strike, The Herald previously reported.
Clark confirmed that student protestors “provided a letter to leaders from Brown’s Division of Campus Life” when the strike was announced.
Administrators have “interacted with students during the day, sharing guidance on Brown policies and protocols related to protest and demonstrations,” Clark wrote. “Campus Life leaders will continue to communicate with them as they make their own choices moving forward.”
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
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 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.