Evergreen State College Students Vote for Divestment

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Students at Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA, the alma mater of pro-Palestinian activist Rachel Corrie, who was killed by the IDF in Gaza in 2003. Below is the press release announcing the results of the vote.

EVERGREEN STATE COLLEGE STUDENTS VOTE TO DIVEST FROM ILLEGAL OCCUPATION OF PALESTINE

On June 2, 2010, students at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA, made history by passing two resolutions supporting human rights, upholding international law, and promoting a just peace in the Palestine/Israel conflict.

1. The first resolution calls for The Evergreen State College Foundation to divest from companies that profit from Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine, as part of instituting a socially responsible investment policy.

2. The second resolution calls on the College to ban the use of Caterpillar, Inc. equipment from campus.

While other US colleges have passed similar divestment resolutions, these are the first of such resolutions passed by direct vote by an entire student body. Additionally, the student government unanimously passed its own resolution strongly supporting the measures.

Divestment has been a popular tool employed at college campuses nationwide to protest South African apartheid and other human rights abuses around the world. It was only natural that divestment would be used to work toward an end to the oldest existing military occupation, Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine—and to target the corporations that profit from the illegal occupation.

The second resolution targets the Caterpillar Corporation, which is responsible for knowingly selling equipment for war crimes and military use against a civilian population, despite calls to cease sales by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and other human rights organizations. Israeli military officials have acknowledged that Caterpillar is a “key weapon” in its continuing occupation of Palestine. Activists worldwide have waged a campaign for several years to hold Caterpillar accountable.

Evergreen senior Rachel Corrie was killed in 2003 by a weaponized Caterpillar bulldozer as she attempted to prevent the demolition of a civilian Palestinian home in the Gaza Strip. Israel continues to claim that Corrie was not run over by the armored bulldozer, contradicting every eyewitness testimony.

The resolutions have received broad support outside of the campus, including an endorsement by Jewish Voice for Peace. Organizers also received a touching letter of support by students in the Gaza Strip, who wrote, “We strongly believe that through steadfast campaigns and grassroots efforts, those dissident voices—people of conscience and bravery—will be victorious.” (Letter available at http://www.tescdivest.org)

The resolutions passed overwhelmingly, with 79.5% of participating students voting for the divestment resolution and 71.8% voting for the Caterpillar resolution. This election marked the largest student voter turnout since the creation of Evergreen’s student union.

“In passing these resolutions, students at Evergreen are sending a clear message to the administration that we want a socially responsible investment policy with an unwavering commitment to human rights,” said student organizer Noor Salah.

The resolutions were inspired by similar initiatives by students at UC Berkeley, Hampshire College, and University of Michigan–Dearborn, and following a letter of encouragement from Desmond Tutu. These steps are part of a greater international movement that seeks to find nonviolent solutions to ending the Palestine/Israel conflict.

For more information, and for the complete text of the resolutions, please visit www.tescdivest.org.

Here is the release celebrating the vote sent out by Independent Jewish Voices:

Just minutes ago, the students at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, the alma mater of Rachel Corrie, announced that the whole student body voted overwhelmingly in favor of divestment from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation and in favor of making their campus Caterpillar-free.

What’s more remarkable is that the decision was not made by a student council and thus vulnerable to veto by just one person, as we saw in Berkeley. No, it was decided through a campus-wide vote. No one, not the promoters of the divestment policy, not its detractors, knew how the students would vote in complete privacy.

The results? The divestment vote won by a landslide 79.5%! The Caterpillar vote by an equally impressive 71.8%!
The Evergreen College Board of Trustees and Board of Governors actually hold the purse strings of the Evergreen College and the Evergreen Foundation respectively. You can imagine the pressure that will be brought upon them to ignore the student votes.

We need you to email them right and ask them to respect the voice of the students and divest!

Board of Turstees Direction Carver T. Gayton (tescbot@evergreen.edu)
Foundation Vice President Lee Hoemann (foundation@evergreen.edu)

Also, go to tescdivest.org to sign a petition in support of the students!

Immediately after the student vote, the student union passed a unanimous resolution requesting full disclosure of all corporations, including those held through mutual funds, in which The Evergreen State College Foundation and The Evergreen State College are invested and asking the Board of Trustees and the Board of Governors to make public a plan of action for divestment from companies that profit from the occupation of Palestine.

Please email Mr. Gayton and Ms. Hoemann today and ask them to divest.

Many of you followed with baited breath the struggle for divestment at the University of California at Berkeley and San Diego. We sent you this report about the inspiring students from Berkeley Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). Well the attacks on the bill’s supporter’s, including Jewish Voice for Peace, were vicious and predictable, so we decided to respond and also document what we had learned about how the anti-divestment groups work. We think it’s important reading for those working on other campuses.

Most important, we interviewed the UC Berkeley student supporters of divestment so you could hear them in their own words. We can’t possibly convey how incredibly inspired we were by them, but we think this ten-minute video clip will do the job for us. One thing is certain. If you want to know where today’s smart, compassionate, curious and socially engaged students of all backgrounds are gravitating to, it’s the campus divestment movement.

Congratulations Evergreen. During these very painful times when we see peacemakers being attacked on the seas outside Gaza, in B’ilin and N’ilin and Sheik Jarrah, it’s hugely inspiring to see that real change is happening with an entire new generation.

***

The Resolutions

Resolution #1: We, the student body of The Evergreen State College, call on The Evergreen State College Foundation to instate a socially responsible investment policy. To this end, we ask them to divest from companies that profit from Israel’s occupation of Palestine. As members of the Evergreen community, we stand with conscientious Palestinians, Israelis, and other international figures such as South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu to endorse the non-violent tactic of boycott, divestment, and sanctions for a peaceful and just resolution to the Israel/Palestine conflict. Do you support this resolution?

Passed by 79.5% of the student vote!

Resolution #2: In 2003, Evergreen student Rachel Corrie was killed by a weaponized Caterpillar bulldozer while non-violently protecting the home of a Palestinian family in Rafah, Palestine. Numerous Palestinian civilians have been killed by militarized Caterpillar bulldozers, as well. Caterpillar, Inc. knowingly sells bulldozers to Israel for military purposes in violation of international law and the US Arms Export Control Act, despite on-going pressure from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch that they desist. Their equipment is used to demolish Palestinian homes, wells, olive trees, orchards, farmland, and other infrastructure as well as to build Israel’s Annexation Wall, which was declared illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004. Therefore, we, the student body, demand that The Evergreen State College declare a CAT-Free Campus and instate the following policies:

1. Refuse to allow Caterpillar equipment to be used for maintenance and upkeep of campus facilities.
2. Include stipulations in all construction agreements that no Caterpillar equipment will be used for any contracted services with the college.

These policies will remain in effect until Caterpillar, Inc. ends its complicity in human rights violations. Do you support this resolution?

Passed by 71.8% of the student vote!

The Student Union resolution:

Whereas the passage by student vote of the Divestment and CAT-free Campus Resolutions demonstrates an unambiguous mandate; and

Whereas the Geoduck Student Union is the elected representative of the student body;

Therefore:
We, the Geoduck Student Union, demand:

That The Evergreen State College and The Evergreen State College Foundation instate a socially responsible investment policy and to this end divest from companies that profit off of Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine. This divestment policy will remain in effect until such time as Israel abides by all applicable international law and ceases to illegally occupy and blockade the indigenous Palestinian land of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

And that The Evergreen State College declare a CAT-Free Campus and instate the following policies:

Refuse to allow Caterpillar equipment to be used for maintenance and upkeep of campus facilities.

Include stipulations in all construction agreements that no Caterpillar equipment be used for any contracted services with the college.

These policies will remain in effect until Caterpillar, Inc. ends its complicity in human rights violations.

The GSU stands with conscientious Palestinians, Israelis, and other international figures such as South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu to endorse the non-violent tactic of boycott, divestment, and sanctions for a peaceful and just resolution to the Israel/Palestine conflict.

By the beginning of the academic year 2010-2011 we insist on full disclosure of all corporations, including those held through mutual funds, in which The Evergreen State College Foundation and The Evergreen State College are invested.

Further we insist that the Board of Trustees and the Board of Governors make public a plan of action for divestment from companies that profit from the occupation of Palestine. In addition, we insist that The Evergreen State College initiates the above CAT-Free Campus policies.

We join with campuses around the world in building a movement for human rights and dignity by working to end the occupation of Palestine. We look to other campuses to join us in our common effort for justice and peace in the Middle East.

Passed unanimously!

One Response to Evergreen State College Students Vote for Divestment

  1. Naima says:

    It is so encouraging to learn of victories such as this one especially given the latest turn of events.
    I hope people will take few minutes to send a message to the Board of Trustee Director, Mr. Grayton, as well as the Foundation Vice President, Ms. Hoemann urging them to respect the vote of their students.

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