Thursday, February 12, 2009

Breaking News: "The (Hampshire College) Climax": Premature Ejaculation(s of Delight Over Divestment From Israel)

Breaking News

Supporters and reporters could barely contain their excitement.

By mid-morning today, the news was being sprayed across campus, in crude flyers, congratulatory proclamations from "activist" faculty, and the semester's first issue of the biweekly student newspaper, the exquisitely named "Climax."

The flyers invited community members to "come celebrate our historic victory" tomorrow at noon on the Library Lawn.

Managing editor of The Climax Henry Parr reported:
On Saturday February 7, 2009 the Board of Trustees approved the proposal to divest from companies affiliated with Israel’s military actions in Palestine. The motion was set forth by the student group Students for Justice in Palestine. Hampshire is the first college in the United States to cut its financial ties to Israel’s armed forces and activities in Gaza, making the divestment a significant event in the history of the school. The decision was made at the recommendation of the Subcommittee on Investment Responsibility (CHOIR), and after the continuous pressure from Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). Minute notes from the meeting state “President Hexter acknowledged that it was the good work of SJP that had brought the issue to the attention of the committee.” . . . . The motion for divestment pulls Hampshire finances from six corporations: Caterpillar, General Electric, International Telephone and Telegraph (ITT), Terex, Motorola, and United Technologies, all of which supply the Israeli armed forces.
. . . . . . . .
Brian Van Slyke, a spokesperson for SJP noted “We, the Students for Justice in Palestine, have proven that student activists 
can organize and put pressure on their college to divest from Israel’s illegal
 occupation. By becoming the first college in the United States to divest,
 Hampshire continues its legacy of standing up for social justice and against apartheid.
(full story)
As is so often the case, however, the unthinking pleasure of irrational exuberance gives way to frustration. "Was that it?" hundreds of disappointed virginal student activists must be asking.

For, just about an hour ago--and barely an hour after the original news hit the wires--the College was moved to issue the following "clarification":
Statement of Clarification from Sigmund Roos (73F), chair of the board of trustees, Ralph Hexter, president, and Aaron Berman, vice president and dean of faculty, regarding trustees' actions on college investments

We write to correct numerous reports circulating about actions taken by the Hampshire College board of trustees on February 7, 2009. The facts are as follows:

- On February 7, 2009, the Hampshire College board of trustees accepted the report of its investment committee, which earlier had voted, without reference to any country or political movement, to transfer assets held in a State Street fund to another fund.
- Based on a comprehensive review of the fund by the trustee investment committee, administrators and an outside consultant, the college found that this fund held stocks in well over 200 companies engaged in business practices that violate the college's policy on socially responsible investments. These violations include: unfair labor practices, environmental abuse, military weapons manufacturing, and unsafe workplace settings.
- The review also led the board of trustees to vote to revise its 1994 socially responsible investment policy to bring it up-to-date with current standards and practices, and, pending revision, to suspend that policy.
- The review of the State Street fund was undertaken at the request of a sub-committee of the investment committee, to address a petition from a student group, Students for Justice in Palestine. The investment committee's decision, however, was based on the consultant's finding that the State Street fund included 200-plus companies engaged in multiple violations of the college's investment policy; the decision expressly did not pertain to a political movement or single out businesses active in a specific region or country.
- No other report or interpretation of the actions of February 7, 2009 by the Hampshire College board of trustees is accurate.
By this time, of course, the news had, through press releases, made its way to a host of external outlets, including the Indypendent, Pulsemedia, Global BDS Movement, and the European Tribune.

There is a fine Arab proverb that is appropriate here in more ways than one:
Do not act as if you have already delivered the head of the Khazar kagan.
One note of consolation: SJP can take solace in the fact that inaccurate claims and reporting have never proven an obstacle to discussion of Israel's policies.

• update: the text of the article has now been moved from the Climax home page. The entire issue of the paper is available as a pdf.

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