On May 11th, 2011, dozens of students, alumni, faculty and community members descended upon The Evergreen State College Board of Trustee’s meeting to re-affirm their strong support for divestment from the Israeli occupation.
With a room packed beyond capacity, the meeting’s public comment period was dominated by divestment supporters demanding the Board implement the student-mandated 2010 resolutions to divest from companies profiting from the Israeli military occupation of Palestine and to create a CAT-free campus. Throughout the hour-long period, speakers spoke about their belief in Divestment as a viable tool in the struggle to ensure Palestinian human rights in Israel and the Occupied territories.
Over a dozen Jewish students and faculty, including members and supporters of Olympia Jewish Voice for Peace, talked about how their own Jewish backgrounds instilled in them the value of fighting for social justice and inspired them to push for divestment from the Occupation. Members of Evergreen’s Native Student Alliance drew sharp parallels between the campaigns of ethnic cleansing conducted against First Peoples in the America’s and what has and continues to happen to Palestinians to this day.
All in all, only one student spoke out against Divestment. It was later discovered that this student was an Emerson Fellow, a paid agent of the right-wing anti-Palestinian organization StandWithUs.
The TESC Student Goup Divestment Letter
On May 19th 2011, Evergreen’s student newspaper the Cooper Point Journal published an open letter to the Board of Trustee’s signed by fifteen Evergreen student groups calling for the implementation of the divestment resolutions:
In the spring of 2010, the student body of The Evergreen State College cast a historic vote in support of human rights. It was the first student-wide vote of its kind. Two resolutions were passed, one calling for divestment from companies profiting off of Israel’s occupation of Palestine, and the other for the creation of a CAT Free Zone, prohibiting the use of Caterpillar Inc. equipment on campus. The result of the vote was a resounding victory for both resolutions, passing with 79.5% and 71.8% respectively.
The voter turnout set a record at Evergreen, and was more than double the average turnout in student elections nationwide. Following the vote, the Geoduck Student Union unanimously passed resolutions supporting the student vote and directing the Board of Trustees to respond in a timely manner to the request of the student body.
The Evergreen State College Board of Trustees has failed to take substantive actions in response to the student referenda and has disrespected the democratic process of the campus-wide election.
We, the students of The Evergreen State College, have attempted to work with the administration and the Board of Trustees in good faith through the proper channels since the passing of the resolutions last spring. Unfortunately, the Board of Trustees refused to put the resolutions on their meeting agenda, and only discussed the resolutions privately without student input. Thus far, we have not received any constructive feedback; Les Purce told students quite clearly at a Geoduck Student Union (GSU) meeting in the Fall of 2010 that he was not interested in working with the GSU on the issue. These actions betray Evergreen’s values as a student-led institution and it is a grave disappointment that the administration and Board of Trustees are unwilling to work proactively with the campus community to end the College’s complicity in human rights abuses.
These actions set a precedent for the College to dismiss student-led initiatives. As a result of the administration’s unwillingness to move the resolutions forward, a broad coalition of students have come together to push the administration to respect the student voice. The disrespect shown for the student body affects the entire campus community, regardless of the issue being faced.
To address this problem for both the current divestment resolutions and all future student-led resolutions, we have come together to make the following demands:
1. Create a socially responsible investment committee, with student leadership, tasked with writing an investment policy that acknowledges the massive student support for divestment. This policy must reflect Evergreen’s stated commitment to social justice by making human rights and equality the first criteria for investment.
2. Institute a statute in the Board of Trustees Bylaws, stating: “All resolutions passed by student vote and certified by the GSU will be on the agenda the following quarter of the regular academic year (fall, winter, and spring quarters). At this time the Board must take a public vote, with student input, on whether or not to implement the resolutions, as well as next steps to take. The board will issue a statement explaining their decision.”
3. Put Divestment and CAT Free Campus on the Spring Agenda of the Board of Trustees. Respect the student vote of spring 2010 and initiate a process to enact the resolutions passed during the election, including both the Divestment and CAT Free Campus resolutions, which received resounding support from the Evergreen student body.
In this way, the administration and Board of Trustees can begin to make amends for not respecting the student voice and the democratic process of the campus-wide election.This letter has been signed by:
Asian Pacific Islander Coalition
Black Student Union
Environmental Recource Center
Geoduck Student Union
Greeners for Choice
Hip Hop Congress
Latin American Solidarity Organization
Mideast Solidarity Project
Women’s Resource Center
Circus Resurgence Club
Students for a Democratic Society
Native Student Alliance