Your Right to Divest
by Nicole Howley | published Mar. 9th, 2015
I only really started paying attention to the conflict between Israel and Palestine over the summer when violence broke out between Israel and Hamas and over 2,200 people — mostly Palestinian civilians — were killed, and even more were injured. As such, I’m not an expert on the conflict that has been going on for over 50 years.
It seems like the Associated Student Government (ASG) at Northwestern University, however, knows a bit more than I do. After five hours of debate and weeks of student groups campaigning, ASG passed a resolution in favor of divestment from six companies that allegedly “provide the means to restrict Palestinian freedom of movement, demolish Palestinian homes, mass incarcerate civilians and more,” meaning that they took a strong stance against Israeli actions in this conflict. The voting margin was narrow, with 24 votes in favor of the resolution, 22 against and three abstentions, but the resolution still passed.
Now, I’m not going to say that one side in this debate was correct or incorrect, because I do not have the qualifications or the knowledge base to do so. I simply support ASG in their decision to take a stand on a controversial issue that they felt strongly about, and I believe that their actions were completely appropriate.
This decision on the part of ASG is comparable, on a much larger scale, to RIT students’ call to end donations to the Boy Scouts of America and the Salvation Army due to their discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals. If there is a company that the student body overall would prefer not to support financially due to their position on a particular issue, it’s important that the students take a stand and make that known to the administration, especially since students’ tuition plays such a significant part in their schools' budgets.
It could be argued that the Northwestern University student body as a whole did not want this divestment plan to be passed since almost half the ASG voted against it and three students abstained from voting. This is true. This decision, however, was made in a democratic system in which majority rules, and of those who did not abstain from the vote, the majority ruled in favor of the decision to divest. The student representatives presumably voted on the resolution based on what they believed fit their constituents’ views, and thus the decision is a completely valid use of student influence.
In the end, it shouldn’t really matter where you stand on the issue of the Israeli and Palestinian conflict; it should matter that you support students’ rights to govern where their tuition dollars are spent, whether their decisions are based upon their moral stance on an issue or any other reason.
In an age when money speaks more than protests and picket signs, I think these students have got it right, at least in terms of their strategy. It’s wonderful that they have found a means to affect a large scale issue impacting the global community through their efforts on campus, and I want to see more students do the same.
Isn’t this what college is about, after all? Finding your voice and doing something to affect the things you care about? If you like ASG’s decision, replicate it here. If you don’t, find a way to take a stand on that, too. The problem is not that this particular stance was taken by ASG, it’s that few other campuses are taking a stand at all.
Check out an opposing view here!