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Brown U. students hunger strike for divestment from Israel; president refuses demands

Also want school to call for ‘immediate ceasefire in Gaza’ and ‘a lasting peace’ in the region

Nineteen students at Brown University are on a hunger strike until the school agrees to “hear and consider” a resolution to divest from Israel.

The so-called “Brown Divest Coalition” announced the strike Friday afternoon during a pro-divestment protest organized by the Palestine Solidarity Caucus and Jews for Ceasefire Now, The Brown Daily Herald reports.

The activists demand a resolution akin to that of the 2020 Brown Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Practices, which had recommended divestment from “companies which profit from human rights abuses in Palestine.”

They also demand Brown advocate for an “immediate ceasefire in Gaza” and “a lasting peace” in the region.

In addition, the students want an audience at the Brown Corporation meetings beginning Feb. 8 where they can present their “case for divestment,” followed by the Corporation “publicly committing” to a formal vote on the matter.

The student activists claimed — and the Herald allegedly confirmed — that theirs will be the “largest” hunger strike since October 7 (the date Hamas initiated a surprise attack on Israel). They linked their refusal to eat with the “starvation” allegedly faced by a quarter of Gaza’s population.

According to the coalition’s Instagram page, a daily schedule of the hunger strikers’ activities will be posted. Today’s schedule includes “Morning/Mourning Announcements,” “Making Protest Art,” and a viewing and discussion of the film “The Food Chain” with (Brown) Professor of Comparative Literature and Modern Culture and Media Ariella Azoulay.

MORE: ‘Undocumented’ U. California students to hunger strike for ‘equal employment opportunities’

The coalition members may be in for a lengthy strike as they were notified via letter from Brown President Christina Paxson that she refuses their demands.

In the letter, Paxson said “the first step toward requesting divestment ‘is not a Corporation resolution, but rather [a] submi[ssion] to the Advisory Committee on University Resource Management.’”

She also noted she won’t “commit to bring a resolution to the February 2024 Corporation meeting or any future meeting of the Corporation.”

“The bar for divestment is high,” Paxson wrote to the protestors Friday. “It requires a demonstration that the University’s investments in the assets of specific companies create social harm, and that divestment will alleviate that harm.”

“Our campus is a place where difficult issues should be freely discussed and debated. It is not appropriate for the University to use its financial assets — which are there to support our entire community — to ‘take a side’ on issues on which thoughtful people vehemently disagree,” she added.

According to the Herald, all of the 19 students were “screened” by a physician before their participation in the hunger strike.

MORE: Hunger strikes by Ivy League activists somehow fail to accomplish anything

IMAGE: Brown Divest Coalition/Instagram

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 20 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.