Response to Carleton Student Association Resolution for Divestment from the State of Israel

22 April 2024

To: Carleton Student Association

I write in response to CSA Resolution W124 #1, which supports the Carleton Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) petition of February 4, 2024, calling on the College to divest from companies connected to the State of Israel, among other actions. I appreciate the role of CSA in providing a forum for students to express their outrage about the killing of civilians in Gaza, and the displacement, famine, and suffering of the Palestinian people. All of us who are horrified by both the initial terrorist attack that triggered the current violence, and the continuing humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, are looking for ways to take meaningful action.

The CSA resolution supports the request of the SJP petition that the Carleton Responsible Investment Committee (CRIC) evaluate all of Carleton’s investments, public and private, to evaluate their involvement in Israel’s conduct of the war. On March 29, CRIC responded to this request with a memo stating that CRIC “cannot do everything the resolution demands.” The complexity of the many private partnerships that form a large portion of the College’s endowment make it impossible for CRIC to “assess the entirety of Carleton’s investments with respect to involvement in or with Israel’s war in Gaza.” CRIC also cites the Investment Office in noting that the College is not engaged in any private partnership co-investments with individual Israeli companies.

The College does not intend to take any further action on this request.

The SJP petition also calls for Carleton to suspend the Jonathan Paradise Israel Scholarship, an endowed fund that provides funding for students to study in Israel on a program of their own choosing. As an academic institution, we send students to study all over the world, and providing that opportunity does not imply support of those countries and their policies. We recognize that some programs are not available to students from nationalities whose travel is restricted by the host country. In response to the concerns raised about the Paradise Israel scholarship, we have updated the website language describing the scholarship to make it clear that the scholarship is not limited to students with specific identities, beliefs, or political perspectives.

The CSA resolution also supports the free speech of students, faculty, and staff in speaking out in support of Palestine. I have written in earlier Carleton Today columns about the College’s support for free speech and academic freedom, and our own educational efforts in response to the war in Gaza. Faculty panels and lectures, campus-wide programs offered through the Division of Inclusion, Equity, and Community, gatherings and vigils organized through the Chaplain’s Office, and classroom dialogues and discussions have provided opportunities for us to process what is happening and learn more about the conflict.

Recent protests and events on college campuses across the nation have highlighted the importance of maintaining a commitment to free speech, even as we strive to ensure a safe, respectful, and mutually supportive community for all. I believe that our focus on offering educational programs that can make us all better informed, and providing support for individual groups, voices, and perspectives, will continue to serve us well.

Thank you for your work on this important issue.

President Alison Byerly

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