Gaza conflict extends Divest debate at DePaul

Students protest outside of the Arts & Letters building on the Lincoln Park Campus Tuesday, Sept. 30. (Amanda Crane / The DePaulia)
Students protest outside of the Arts & Letters building on the Lincoln Park Campus Tuesday, Sept. 30. (Amanda Crane / The DePaulia)

Whether it’s in meetings of student government or on the sidewalk outside the Arts and Letters Hall, the issue of divestment keeps popping up, despite the fact that the referendum on the issue took place last quarter.

The issue reappeared definitively last Tuesday, as pro-divest students demonstrated outside the Arts and Letters Hall in protest of Palestinian deaths caused by the Israeli invasion of Gaza this summer.

Many members of the protest laid on the ground with a piece of paper with the name of a deceased Palestinian on top of them. As they laid there, a protester read the names of Palestinian civilians who died from the violence while another protester was hitting a gong for every name.

“This action was first a means of raising awareness and then urging the administration to take action of the needs and demands of the students,” said Hanna Alshaikh, a member of Students for Justice in Palestine.

Not all were happy with the demonstration, however. In a statement given to the DePaulia, Students Supporting Israel President Cameron Erickson condemned the display, stating that “by ignoring the agitator of the last conflict — Hamas, the terrorist organization that currently rules Gaza and uses its own people as human shields — and instead just smearing the Jewish State, Students for Justice in Palestine does nothing to advance peace and nothing to help the Palestinian people.”

“SJP should more accurately call themselves, ‘Students Against Peace and Against the Palestinians’ because rather than examine the countless problems prevalent within Palestinian society and leadership that inhibit the path to statehood, they are only interested in demonizing Israel,” he said.

The demonstration, described by many of the roughly 20 who participated, was more so about creating awareness than demanding for divest.

After last year’s 1,575-1,333 affirmative vote on the resolution to divest, the ball is now firmly in the court of DePaul Divest, the coalition that has spearheaded the movement on campus. The group must make a case before the university’s Fair Business Practices Committee within the academic year in order for divest to even be considered.

“It wasn’t another specific call,” said Joseph Kerins, Senator for Intercultural Awareness in the Student Government Association. “Those conversations will go on with the university. So it was more so a public awareness thing just letting students know that Gaza’s blood is on our hands.”

According to FBPC chairman Scott Kelley, DePaul Divest has not submitted a proposal to this point. Kelley declined further comment on the topic given that fact. And with the committee’s first meeting being held last Friday, the coalition will need to wait until at least December 3 for their case to be heard.

When a proposal is brought before the committee, members first vote on whether or not to take up the matter. If they vote yes, research and testimony are given, and based off that, the committee then gives a recommendation to the president of the university. The president can then choose to send it up to the finance committee of the board of trustees, who will then vote on whether to divest or not.

If they ultimately vote yes, the board of trustees will direct the university administration to divest the appropriate mutual funds. DePaul Divest has until the next SGA election in May to present a case, while the FBPC must act within two years of being presented with a proposal.

SGA President Matthew von Nida, a member of the FBPC, said that he does not see why the committee would not take up the case, but cannot say for sure until the case is filed.

“The referendum itself lists four corporations, but I know the other day, some people that are involved with the referendum passage listed 12 different corporations,” von Nida said. “So I would love to talk about what the submission of that case would look like, I’ve reached out a few times. But, they have to file the case.”

“And from that, I can’t say I know what the case looks like to say whether or not (Vice President) Cristina (Vera) and I will vote to accept or reject a case,” he said. “But I can’t imagine a reason why us as SGA wouldn’t want something to come forward to the committee.”

Divest has been somewhat of a hot topic in SGA’s general body meetings as well. Given the results of the referendum, some senators want clarity as to what SGA’s role in the divest movement is.

“It’s interesting because the referendum itself is sort of an enigma as it doesn’t happen very often,” Kerins said. “As a whole, the government association really needs to discuss it amongst ourselves and kind of figure out what it means for SGA.”

One action the organization has taken is deciding to allocate up to 10 minutes per meeting to speak on divest.

“Because no action is not the right action if we want to uphold the legitimacy of a student government and the legitimacy of a referendum,” Kerins said. “I hope with this up to ten minute discussion every week, something will emerge.”

Von Nida, however, believes that SGA’s role is providing the students the process to bring up questions like divest.

“Our goal in that really is ensuring that that process exists and that that process moves forward,” von Nida said.