Divestment passes at UCR again but the biggest takeaway is what it took to get there

The student senate at the University of California, Riverside (UCR) voted in favor of a resolution urging the university to divest from companies profiting from Israel’s occupation by a final tally of 8-7-0.

The resolution was introduced by UCR’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and the evening’s success followed many months of preparation. A divestment resolution had been presented to the student senate earlier in the year. And even before that, in the previous school year, UCR’s SJP managed to successfully pass a divestment resolution before witnessing outside groups pressure the student government into rescinding the clear victory.

UCR’s divestment hearing was one of three simultaneously taking place on Wednesday. The other two were held at San Diego State University and the University of California, Santa Barbara where, at both institutions, student groups also presented similar divestment resolutions urging the administration to withdraw investments from groups that verifiably profit from occupation and human rights abuses.

While we celebrate this victory, it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on what this year’s “divestapalooza” means — not just in terms of the future for Palestine awareness but also in terms of what it says about the student movement in the United States and its ability to mobilize efficiently, effectively, and passionately.

Rahim, who blogs at Radio Rahim, speaks for all of us when he says this:

“Last year’s SJP-West Conference was one of the first times that California SJP activists got to sit in a room together to talk about our work. One story stands out in particular for me. [Two students] from UCSD recounted how in 2009, when divestment was first presented at their school, they sat in the audience and watched as students eloquently explained why their university shouldn’t continue to invest in occupation. Watching the vote fail was a painful but galvanizing moment for them and the other freshmen in the room that night. After the vote they committed themselves to making sure that divestment passed before they graduated. 4 years later, in 2013, they did pass divestment, and this time by a huge margin. But it took years of work, including lost votes, to educate the campus and build a movement. I can’t help but think about this story as I watch the divestment debates tonight. I wonder, who are the freshmen in those rooms who are watching and learning and deciding that they’re not going to graduate without passing divestment? It’s exciting to think about what they will they create on their campuses next year and in the years to come.”

Congratulations to the students involved in UCR’s successful campaign and to everyone else who has shown support in one way or another.


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