Board Dismisses Concerns of SFP

To the Editors:

Oberlin Students for a Free Palestine wrote to the editors of The Oberlin Review earlier this semester. In the Oct. 9 letter, “Board of Trustees Condones Violence,” we reviewed the Board of Trustees here at Oberlin College, criticizing the lack of transparency as SFP submitted an application to divest from six corporations that profit from Israeli occupation. After eight months of evasion, the Board gave us a response: It rejected our divestment application.

Again, the Board fails to communicate with students. How is the student body to think that our voices are being heard when after eight months, the Board of Trustees responded to a 20-page divestment proposal with four paragraphs? The vagueness of their response is remarkable; though it determines that the proposal “will not be acceptable to the larger Oberlin community,” it does not define in any way who they consider this community to include, nor how they came to an understanding of its opinion. They also do not cite those from whom the proposal has “elicited strong opposition” and, once dismissing it as “divisive,” they do not engage with its content and how it pertains to other criteria for application approval. We do not want the empty and patronizing compliments or gratitude of the Board of Trustees. We want our concerns and those of Palestinians to be taken seriously, to be engaged with and, ultimately, for action to be taken so that Palestinians under occupation may live a more dignified life.

Beyond Oberlin, Palestinians’ experiences of dispossession, oppression and repression resonate with communities of color struggling for self-determination in the U.S. This summer, over a thousand Black activists, including Angela Davis, Cornel West, Mumia Abu-Jamal and Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors, raised their voices in solidarity with Palestinians, endorsing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and declaring their “commitment to working through cultural, economic and political means to ensure Palestinian liberation at the same time as we work towards our own” (“1,000 Black Activists, Artists, and Scholars Demand Justice for Palestine,” Ebony, Aug. 15, 2015).

We, too, are committed to an interconnected struggle. On Oberlin’s campus, we stand behind prison and fossil fuel divestment, Obies for Undocumented Inclusion and workers struggling for better conditions and a living wage, among many other fights. We encourage students of conscience to join us in drawing connections between our struggles, because no one is free until we all are.

In solidarity,

Students for a Free Palestine

A. M.
College sophomore

Alexandra Smith
double-degree first-year

Jacob Firman
College senior