In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, the Stanford Board of Trustees announced that the University would not divest from certain companies operating in Israel. The statement responds to a request from Stanford Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), a student group that hoped Stanford would divest from a list of companies that it claimed profited from human rights abuses in Palestine.
According to the statement, the Board concluded that any action to divest would serve to deeply divide the Stanford community.
“The Board concluded that the University’s mission and its responsibility to support and encourage diverse opinions would be compromised by endorsing an institutional position on either side of an issue as complex as the Israel-Palestine conflict,” the statement read. “Therefore the Board will not be taking action on this request, nor will it consider this request further.”
The debate over divestment has already been a source of controversy this year. A series of two votes by the ASSU Senate provoked disagreement and, at times, shouting between students, moving one senator to tears. President John Hennessy additionally addressed the issue at a faculty senate meeting.
“I have never seen a topic that has been more divisive within the university community,” Hennessy said. “As a university, we must remain committed to civil and rational discussion, especially when the issues are highly controversial. An atmosphere of intimidation or vitriol endangers our ability to operate as an intellectual community.”
The Trustees’ statement was met with dismay among students associated with the divestment movement.
“It is unacceptable that the Board of Trustees is hiding behind a call for campus unity to justify continued complicity in the suffering and death of Palestinians under the occupation,” said Clayton Evans ’15. “The brochures peddling diversity that are sent to admits and parents are a sham: Stanford continually marginalizes students of color, and the University does not care at all about Palestinian students, their families or their communities.”
“The board’s key criteria — divisiveness and negative impact to the university’s educational mission — are the politically correct way of maximizing Stanford’s public image and profit margins,” said Natasha Patel ’16.
Others welcomed the news. Hillel at Stanford sent a statement via email to members of the University’s Jewish community.
“Hillel applauds the Board of Trustees for this statement which makes clear that the campaign to single out Israel and isolate specific communities at Stanford based on ethnic, religious or cultural identity, is harmful to the campus environment and the University’s reputation as a world-class educational institution,” read the email.
“We steadfastly support the administration’s broader efforts to promote debate in a strong intellectual climate, while ensuring that students uphold a civil campus environment,” Hillel added.
Liana Kadisha ’15, president of Stanford Israel Association, also believed that the Board of Trustees made the right decision.
“The Trustees’ number one priority should be to safeguard the quality of Stanford’s environment as an intellectual institution that supports pluralism and a variety of perspectives,” Kadisha wrote in a statement to The Daily. “Any support for divestment from companies that work with Israel will seriously silence a major group and perspective on campus.”
“Taking sides on such a complicated conflict on the other side of the world will not only not help the parties involved in the conflict but will also cause unnecessary harm here at Stanford,” she said. “Speaking on behalf of the majority of Israeli and Jewish students and as president of Stanford Israel Association, I can say that I am very glad with their decision.”
Contact Michael Gioia at mgioia2 ‘at’ stanford.edu.