[The following is a press release issued by the DePaul University chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine on 24 May 2014.]
CHICAGO – Following two months of campaigning at DePaul University, student coalition DePaul Divest declares victory in a campaign to divest from corporations that profit off of human rights violations perpetrated against Palestinians via the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine.
While a majority of divestment campaigns have been carried out through student government resolutions, DePaul Divest opted to pose the question of divestment to the entire DePaul student body through a Student Government Association (SGA) referendum this week.
With a majority of 1,575 votes in favor and 1,333 against, it is clear that Palestinian human rights, the rights of minorities within Israel and ethical investment are issues that concern the DePaul student body.
This victory did not come without immense outside interference by pro-Israel lobbyist group StandWithUs, whose paid staff frequently presented themselves as individuals affiliated with DePaul University, canvassed the student body in a counter campaign to DePaul Divest.
“Scare tactics were used to deter the student body from voting to affirm the human rights of Palestinians, but our victory today is evidence that this was not enough to stop DePaul students from standing on the side of justice,” said campaign organizer Areej Hamdan.
In the days leading up to the student vote, members of the opposition circulated false rumors and misinformation about the DePaul Divest campaign, despite the clarity and transparency of the movement’s goals.
This misinformation was addressed in an 18 May DePaulia article, “DePaul Divest speaks out: No more intimidation, no more misinformation.”
These tactics were not enough to halt the momentum of the divestment movement, whose actions this week grabbed the attention of the university community through a sit-in, flag drop and rally.
The presence of the Israeli consul general on campus during the last full day of voting did not silence DePaul Divest supporters, who rallied on campus under his gaze. Harassment and intimidation tactics used by the anti-Divestment canvassers (many of whom are admittedly trained by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee or work as StandWithUs employees), like taking photographs of student organizers, proved incapable of impeding the success of the DePaul Divest campaign.
“We have proven that the DePaul student body is a socially conscious community, one that recognizes the humanity of the Palestinian people and how their basic human rights have been denied at the hands of the Israeli government and these corporations we target” said student organizer Hamdan.
While the passage of this referendum is not binding on the administration, the SGA is prohibited from passing resolutions in the upcoming school year that contradict the results of the referendum.
DePaul Divest organizers will now turn their attention to working with the DePaul administration in moving forward with implementing divestment from these corporations. Working with the Fair Business Practices Committee, DePaul Divest organizers will encourage the university administration to establish investment screens. This will require that the human rights record of each potential investment is investigated, making ethical investment a priority and requirement for the university’s money managers.
“It is clear that DePaul students do not wish to have their tuition dollars invested in weapons manufacturers,” said student organizer Roya Naderi. This has generated discussion on ethical investment on campus, with students in agreement that DePaul University should not be invested in war profiteers.
While campaigning at the university is now over, divestment does not end here. This is a moment in which the student body has taken a stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people, long denied of their basic human rights. The passage of this divestment referendum is a step towards removing the university’s complicity in the occupation of Palestine, and is a step towards establishing a standard of ethical investment practices at DePaul University.