Demands for Divestment

To the Editors:

At the Trustee Open Forum three weeks ago, activists representing over 15 student groups presented a unified list of demands to Oberlin’s Board of Trustees. Members of Oberlin Students for a Free Palestine were inspired by the energy and support we felt in the room. For many of us, this degree of alliance was unprecedented in our experiences at Oberlin College. The demands presented are as follows, in brief:

1. Increased institutional transparency and access to the communication with the Board of Trustees

2. The creation of a scholarship fund as well as efforts toward increased access for undocumented students

3. Divestment from six companies which directly profit from ongoing violations of international law and human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories

4. The creation of an Asian-American Studies department

5. The banning of hydraulic fracturing on College property

The presentation of a unified slate of demands is exciting because it demonstrates that support for institutional change comes not only from a small group of dedicated students, but emerges from a vision of Oberlin College that is shared by a large portion of the student body. We envision an Oberlin that is accountable to the needs of all of its students and is a responsible member of its local and global communities. We believe divestment plays an important role in this vision, as we strive to see our commitments to anti-racism and anti-colonialism reflected in our financial practices. Each of these demands challenges our community and this institution to take an ethical stance on issues of access, transparency and justice.

We understand that the inclusion of divestment in this list of student demands has been criticized as being “divisive.” Instead, SFP asserts that to say the demand for divestment divides the Oberlin community is to erase the ways that it unites those working against systems of privilege and oppression. Borders and walls divide people all over the world: Israel from the Palestinian people, Mexico from the U.S., as well as invisible borders in Oberlin, including, but not limited to, policing through the use of the No Trespass list, and a lack of access for many marginalized people, including those who are undocumented. The call for divestment represents a challenge to the repeated and violent stifling of Palestinian voices in the discourse surrounding this issue, and is taken up in indivisible solidarity with other student groups and their demands for a better Oberlin.

It is never SFP’s intention to silence our peers. Rather, we intend to challenge the dominant narrative that depicts Israel as a state that deserves impunity for war crimes and other violations of human rights and Palestinians as responsible for their own colonization. This conversation is never finished, and it is a part of the mission of our organization to provide opportunities to continue it. In this spirit we invite you to join us for our Palestine 101 workshop on Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. in King 323.We hope to see you there!