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Design School Student Govt. Urges Harvard to Divest From ‘Illegal Occupation of Palestine’

The Graduate School of Design student government called on Harvard to divest from the "ongoing illegal occupation of Palestine and the genocide of Palestinians" in a resolution which passed Monday.
The Graduate School of Design student government called on Harvard to divest from the "ongoing illegal occupation of Palestine and the genocide of Palestinians" in a resolution which passed Monday. By Frank S. Zhou
By Tilly R. Robinson, Crimson Staff Writer

The Harvard Graduate School of Design Student Forum passed a resolution Monday urging the Harvard Management Company to divest from entities that “aid the ongoing illegal occupation of Palestine and the genocide of Palestinians.”

The resolution — proposed by Student Forum President Cory Page on April 7 — follows similar votes from student governments at the Harvard Law School and Divinity School, as calls for Harvard to sever its institutional and financial ties to the war in Gaza have picked up across campus.

Undergraduates have also launched a petition for a College-wide referendum on divestment, though the effort has ground to a halt over a procedural dispute.

Still, the University has remained steadfast in its opposition to boycotts of Israel in statements following the HLS and HDS student government resolutions.

In response to a request for comment, Harvard spokesperson Jason A. Newton pointed to the University’s previous public statement, writing that Harvard leadership “has made clear that it opposes calls for a policy of boycotting Israel and its academic institutions.”

Page announced the outcome of the vote — which won a strong majority of the Forum’s 11 members over a two-day voting period last weekend — in a Thursday email over the GSD’s school-wide list.

More than two dozen GSD student organizations — including the African American Student Union, Future Architects of the Middle East, and Jewish Students in Design — signed onto an email in support of the resolution.

The Student Forum resolution cited as precedent Harvard’s decisions to divest from companies selling products to the South African military under apartheid, sell off tobacco stocks, and allow its investments in fossil fuels to expire.

“Calls for divestment from Harvard student governments like ours have successfully shifted Harvard’s investments, which is the largest of any academic institutional endowment in the nation,” Page wrote in his email to GSD students.

The International Court of Justice is hearing a case brought by South Africa accusing Israel of genocide, but a ruling is probably years away. Israel has rejected the allegations as baseless, insisting it has worked to minimize civilian deaths and that its actions fall within its right to national self-defense.

Still, Israel’s longtime allies have grown increasingly frustrated with the country’s military strategy, citing famine-like conditions facing more than a million Gazans and a death toll of more than 33,000 people in Gaza, according to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry, whose tally does not disaggregate civilian and combatant deaths.

Two weeks ago, President Joe Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the humanitarian situation on the ground in Gaza was intolerable, and demanded Israel implement measures to minimize suffering and civilian deaths. Still, the House of Representatives is set to consider a $26 billion military and humanitarian aid bill for Israel following Iranian airstrikes on the country this week.

At Harvard, the wave of resolutions indicates that demands for divestment have gained ground among student leaders, although the Harvard Graduate Council — which represents students across all twelve graduate and professional schools — has not discussed divestment at its open meetings.

The Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee successfully petitioned for a College-wide referendum on whether Harvard should divest from “Israel’s occupation of Palestine.” But the Harvard Undergraduate Association — the undergraduate student government — put an indefinite pause on all student referenda, citing constitutional concerns after receiving a petition for votes on more than 80 questions ranging from inane to bigoted and antisemitic.

The HUA’s decision was protested by more than 60 Harvard affiliates last weekend, who accused the body of obstructing pro-Palestine student activism.

Page, the GSD Student Forum president, said no GSD administrators were present when the group first discussed their resolution on April 9. But during the Student Forum’s April 16 meeting — one day after the resolution passed — administrators from the GSD Office of Student Life spoke with Student Forum representatives.

At the meeting, Page said, the administrators warned Student Forum officials that they could face backlash by publicizing the resolution, including doxxing or in-person harassment.

Pro-Palestine activists have repeatedly faced doxxing attacks over the past several months. After the HLS Student Government passed their March 30 divestment resolution, its presidents were targeted by online doxxing and had their faces displayed on a billboard truck that drove around Harvard’s campus.

In the fall, Harvard College established guidelines and a temporary task force to support undergraduates who had been doxxed, and top administrators condemned the doxxing campaigns. But Harvard still faced criticism — and a complaint to the U.S. Department of Education — from students who alleged the University failed to protect them from harassment.

The GSD resolution argued that design students had a responsibility to denounce injustice.

“Historically, built environment disciplines have been complicit in apparatuses and scripts of oppression and violence,” Page wrote in his email to GSD students. “As designers, planners, and stewards of the built environment, we have a role to play in shaping a better world by dismantling an unjust one.”

—Staff writer Tilly R. Robinson can be reached at Follow her on X @tillyrobin.

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