Mellon Mays Fellows Support SFP Divestment

To the Editors:

The Oberlin College Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship classes of 2015 and 2016 vehemently condemn the apartheid state of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land and proudly endorse the Students for a Free Palestine’s divestment proposal. As members of the larger MMUF network, we understand firsthand the importance of acting in solidarity with other students of color, the significance of funding, academic institutions, the fellowship of institutions and speaking out against the illicit use of investments, which we, the beneficiaries, do not consent to.

The fundamental objective of the MMUF program is to address, over time, the problem of underrepresentation in the academy at the level of college and university faculties. This goal can be achieved both by increasing the number of students from underrepresented minority groups who pursue PhDs and by supporting the pursuit of PhDs by students who may not come from historically marginalized groups but have otherwise demonstrated a commitment to the goals of MMUF. The MMUF program is designed to encourage fellows to enter PhD programs that prepare students for professorial careers; it is not intended to support students who intend to go on to medical school, law school or other professional schools.

We are united in our deep passion for the dialectical relationship between theory and practice. Our research seeks to not only create conversations within classroom walls. We know that classrooms and papers will not free us and that we must always make connections to those struggling against oppression, which is why we strongly support and act in solidarity with all efforts of liberation. We pursue social justice-based research projects because we all collectively aim to document the struggles of our peoples to fill a largely vacant hole in academia. Even in fields outside of the social sciences, we bring an intentionality of purpose and our lived experiences to our research.

MMUF fellows are deliberate in our background research, the way in which we present our research and who has access to it. However, this does not end with our approach to research. As MMUF fellows, we understand that research and academic integrity are not created in the vacuum of the classroom. We rely on one another to survive interpersonally in institutions built upon capitalism and U.S. plunder. Therefore, we also realize the global context with which we exist and that which we must resist.

This past winter, Students for a Free Palestine submitted a divestment proposal to the Board of Trustees, which is currently being considered. The Oberlin College MMUF cohort calls upon the student organizations at Oberlin College, other MMUF cohorts and beyond to endorse the labor that Students for a Free Palestine have put into ensuring that our institution lives up to its legacy of social justice. By endorsing this resolution, Oberlin College will be able to catch up to the pioneering resolutions of other universities such as UC Irvine, UC Berkeley, UC San Diego and Brown University.

Under the 10-year agreement since 2009, the U.S. government has been giving $3 billion of military aid to Israel per year. With the increasing education crisis in the U.S., as students dedicated to the practice of our social justice theory, we assert that U.S. government funds should be directed to the education of marginalized students, not in the occupation of oppressed peoples’ lands. To do otherwise would be to shun the values of civil rights leader and sociologist Benjamin E. Mays, of whom our fellowship is named after. Although we are thankful for the opportunity of research that MMUF has given us, our educational pursuits should not have to be funded by a private entity. As students in the U.S., we demand that we be supported by the government, and it is clear that this current system is created so that the exploits of the few are prioritized instead.

We condemn the Israeli government and stand for the liberation of the Palestinian people and all occupied lands around the world. The Oberlin College MMUF classes of 2015 and 2016 will not remain complicit in this form of U.S. imperialism and call on Oberlin College as an institution to stand on the right side of history, as we will be the ones writing it both on the ground and in the classroom.

In Solidarity,

Kaela Sanborn-Hum

College senior

Joelle Lingat,

OC ’14

Ana Robelo

College senior

Sarita Beekie

College senior

Aria Dean

College senior

Donnay Edmund

College junior

Jasmine Adams

College junior

Tomoyo Joshi

College junior

Dominic Fiallo

College junior

Alexandria Cunningham

College junior