Brown University agrees to hold Israel divestment vote after pressure from student protesters

Brown University agrees to hold Israel divestment vote after pressure from student protesters

Brown University’s corporate board will vote on a proposal to divest from Israeli interests, the university announced Tuesday, a major victory for student protesters who have taken over dozens of college campuses nationwide.

Protesters at Brown will tear down their encampment at the center of campus and cease demonstrations through the end of the school year as part of an agreement reached Tuesday, University President Christina Paxson said.

“The devastation and loss of life in the Middle East has prompted many to call for meaningful change, while also raising real issues about how best to accomplish this,” Paxson wrote in a statement. “Brown has always prided itself on resolving differences through dialog, debate and listening to each other.”

“I cannot condone the encampment, which was in violation of University policies,” she continued. “Also, I have been concerned about the escalation in inflammatory rhetoric that we have seen recently, and the increase in tensions at campuses across the country. I appreciate the sincere efforts on the part of our students to take steps to prevent further escalation.”

Brown, a member of the Ivy League, is the most prestigious school to reach an agreement with pro-Palestine protesters since encampments protesting the Israel-Hamas war cropped up on campuses nationwide last week.

The Brown protesters specifically demanded that the university divest from Israeli interests and have lobbied the Biden administration to cease military aid to Israel and push for a cease-fire in the war, citing mass civilian casualties in Gaza.

Paxson wrote that a group of five student activists will present their argument for divestment to the university board next month, and the board will vote on the proposal in October. She added that student protesters will not be suspended or expelled for their conduct.

Protest leaders celebrated the agreement as a victory in a statement Tuesday.

“Brown administration has conceded to students’ demand that the Corporation vote on divestment after years of tireless pressure from the student body, 61 student arrests, an eight day hunger strike and seven days of encampment,” the Brown Divest Coalition said in a social media post.

“We stand with student protestors as they face university oppression and police brutality, and the people of Palestine as they continue to withstand the Israeli occupation,” the group continued. “This victory is not an end to our work, but rather fuel for it.”

Hundreds of students have been arrested at colleges nationwide due to the protest encampments, some of which have devolved into violence between students, counterprotesters and police.

Protests escalated at Columbia University, the first large-scale encampment that has drawn national political attention, with students moving indoors to take over an administration building. University leaders have weighed criminal charges as a debate over freedom of expression paralyzes campuses.

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