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  • Eric Santomauro-Stenzel

SGA passes disclose/divest resolution, SJP hosts emergency Rafah rally

Community members gather toward the start of SJP's emergency Rafah demonstration on May 7th.

SADOVE STUDENT CENTER - After about 45 minutes of discussion on the night of Monday, May 6th, Hamilton's Student Government Alliance voted almost unanimously to approve Resolution 21-4: Call for Disclosure and Divestment of Investments. Separately, the following day, Students for Justice in Palestine held an emergency demonstration to call attention to Israel's invasion of Rafah, where Palestinian refugees have gathered en masse.

The resolution advocates “for Hamilton College to disclose its investments with the goal of divesting from unethical systems and entities.” The resolution particularly calls for the Board to disclose Hamilton's investments with the eventual goal of divesting "from all systems of oppression and harm; including but not limited to apartheid, war, prisons, and fossil fuels" in collaboration with the rest of the community's constituencies. Hamilton College President David Wippman had already committed to sharing a similar set of demands from student activists with the Board of Trustees at his final board meeting before retiring this summer.

Both student-wide representatives, President Quentin Messer '26 and VP Anna Gnapp '26, voted in favor of the resolution, which was introduced by Nawar Kazi ‘27 and Mohammed Sami ‘27 with the support of Hamiltonians for Divestment (H4D). Theodore Gercken '27, who had expressed apprehension about the fiduciary legal obligations of the College and advocated for a narrower resolution, voted against the resolution.

About a dozen H4D members, the recently revived group that once advocated for divestment from Apartheid South Africa in the 1980s, were present to advocate for the resolution. At times, the meeting became contentious with some H4D members interjecting in SGA discussion without having been called on. An additional set of public comments came in overwhelmingly in favor, with only one against from Jacob Shulman '26, who also previously accused pro-Palestine activists of rampant antisemitism without evidence and wrote against fossil fuel divestment in a fall 2023 issue of the Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization's student publication Enquiry.

The resolution comes on the heels of increasing advocacy from pro-Palestinian community members, including many student leaders applying a sense of urgency about SGA taking action before the semester ended. That urgency was further embodied by an emergency demonstration announced hours before the SGA meeting by SJP for the following day, the last day of classes.

They wrote in an all-campus email, "Rafah is currently among the most densely populated areas on Earth. Half of the Gaza Strip's residents are children. An invasion of Rafah will result in innumerable civilian casualties. The international community, including the US, has urged Israel NOT to go forward with this sadistic war plan to no avail. Please mobilize tomorrow against this terrible injustice about to be committed."

About a hundred community members came and went from the demonstration from 11:30am to 1pm on May 7th, including faculty speakers. Campus Safety and some members of the administration watched the event from its edges. Many senior Hamilton leaders have been on edge about potential protest escalations, closely monitoring protest activity and emphasizing a balance between free expression and College expectations/policies when giving public remarks.

Participants created signs which were then posted around campus, including phrases like "Free Palestine," "Bombs off Rafah," "Let Rafah Live," "Not In Our Name" with a Star of David, "Jews for a Free Palestine," "Justice 4 Hind" referencing the IDF's killing of a young girl, "Never Again for Anyone," "Stop the Genocide," and more. Toward the end of the event, about forty students sat on Martin's Way in front of Sadove Terrace (not the crosswalk) while holding signs such that passerby would need to walk around them.

Student advocates have slowly escalated their engagement over the year as Israel has escalated its campaign in Palestine, killing and injuring tens of thousands - primarily civilians - while destroying almost all of Gaza's infrastructure, including all its universities and most of its hospitals. What started as a general call for a ceasefire in a November Monitor article and educational events about Israel and Palestine has become cornering Rep. Matt Cartwright '83 over his support for Israel at Common Ground, two meetings with President David Wippman to advocate for a ceasefire statement and disclosure/divestment, a set of daily events during "Apartheid Week," and increasingly large protest events. While SJP has taken a prominent role, the organizing has largely been coalitional with involvement from a substantial portion of student organizations and the broader community, including many faculty. Students have set an expectation for the Board to begin disclosure and divestment by the start of the fall semester, but have not yet publicly indicated what they will do if the College does not do so.

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