Press "Enter" to skip to content

No, the Evergreen State College Did Not Agree to Divestment


In a May 1 article (the article) in The Cooper Point Journal (CPJ), Sako Chapman falsely claimed that “TESC AGREES TO DIVESTMENT” in the headline. This has resulted in the spread of false and misleading information around the country. (On May 4, after the article had circulated widely online, the headline was changed to TESC AGREES TO DIVESTMENT PROCESS. Even this edited headline is misleading).

For context, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed on April 30 by The Evergreen State College (TESC) administrators and four student negotiators “representing” TESC’s Gaza Solidarity Encampment. By signing the MOU, the negotiators agreed to have students disband the encampment. However, the MOU does not state that TESC will divest or that it agrees to a divestment process. It states that TESC agrees to create an “Investment Policy Disappearing Task Force” (DTF) charged with addressing “divestment from companies that profit from gross human rights violations and/or the occupation of Palestinian territories” and “proposing revisions to investment policies.” The DTF will then “complete a recommendation…for consideration by the Foundation and The College.” This language does not mean that TESC is agreeing to a divestment process. More importantly, TESC will be free to reject the DTF’s recommendation(s) once they are proposed. Applications for students interested in serving on that DTF were due on May 23.

The MOU was a successful political maneuver for TESC to maintain control over its investments while appeasing student negotiators. As documented by Peter Bohmer in Works In Progress, TESC has a history of diffusing student movements by channeling them into DTFs. Once appointed to these DTFs, students often find themselves supporting the college’s objectives “even if they conflict with justice or real student power.” By signing the MOU, student negotiators have inadvertently set the stage for TESC to continue this tactic.

Students and faculty at Gaza solidarity encampments across the US have been brutalized by police and Zionists for expressing their first amendment rights to freedom of speech and assembly. These acts of violence have exposed the U.S. and its illusion of democracy for the fascist state that it is. Referring to supposed divestment, the CPJ article quotes a student as saying “we did it without a single fucking student getting touched by police.” This is a slap in the face to those who put their bodies and diplomas on the line to reject institutional co-optation in the struggle for real divestment.

The Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace & Justice posted the article on X with a caption of “The Evergreen State College (school of Rachel Corrie) agrees to divestment”. Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old activist from Olympia, was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer while undertaking nonviolent direct action to protect the home of a Palestinian family from demolition. The foundation must take responsibility by deleting the post and issuing a correction to the 1.2 million+ people who were exposed to its false claim. This will help ensure that the public has an accurate understanding of the situation and that Rachel Corrie’s legacy is honored with factual information.

The independent news program Democracy Now! covered the MOU on its May 6 broadcast and posted on Instagram that “Rachel Corrie’s alma mater moves to divest from Israel”. Those reports have misled hundreds of thousands of people to believe TESC intends to divest positing it as an ethical institution to be celebrated. The student uprisings for Gaza have exposed higher education institutions’ greed and complicity in genocide. TESC must be exposed alongside them.

The Evergreen State College deserves condemnation because its history and financial ties reveal the college has little to no regard for student well being or human rights. TESC had nearly $20 million dollars invested in the University of Washington’s endowment fund in 2021. TESC’s failure to disclose its current amount in that endowment fund during encampment negotiations leads students to believe that the $20 million has significantly increased. According to the encampment’s negotiating team, roughly $800 million of UW’s endowment fund is invested in companies on the BDS list including Boeing, Caterpillar, Amazon, and Google. Boeing sells bombs to Israel and it was a Caterpillar bulldozer that crushed Rachel Corrie to death. Caterpillar machinery has been used by Israel in the ethnic cleansing and forced displacement of Palestinians through the destruction of their homes as well as the construction of illegal settlements on Palestinian land, a war crime under international law. Amazon and Google provide cloud technology to the Israeli government and military. TESC knows it profits off of human rights abuses and occupied Palestine by investing in UW’s endowment fund. TESC students have demanded that caterpillar machinery be banned from campus since at least 2010. Through it all, TESC maintains its divestments.

In 2021 TESC accepted a $75,000 grant from the Academic Engagement Network (AEN), a Zionist organization advancing education about Israel in US higher education. TESC faculty member Nancy Koppelman wrote about her trip to Israel with AEN staff and signed a 2022 New Jewish Studies Zionist Network (NJSZN) statement to reaffirm “the legitimacy of Zionism as the historical movement of Jewish self-determination”. This is an attempt to obscure that Zionism is a settler colonial project rooted in white supremacy and the dehumanization of Palestinians. Koppelman is set to teach TESC’s “Many Israels” class this summer which states on its website that Israel “was founded in conflict”. Employing an openly Zionist faculty member to teach about the settler colonial apartheid state of Israel, especially while Israel executes a genocide, is further proof of TESC’s disregard for human rights.

The AEN, NJSZN, and classes like “Many Israels” are vital to preserve the narrative in U.S. consciousness of Israel as a moral, democratic state with the right to self-defense. This narrative legitimizes Israel’s villainization and dehumanization of Palestinians. Together, this justifies the US government’s unwavering financial, military, and diplomatic support for Israel’s genocide in Gaza. Students continue to call for TESC to cut all ties with AEN and remove “Many Israels” from its course catalog.

TESC continues to endanger its students by funding its very own police force equipped with AR-15 semi-automatic rifles. Policing, which evolved out of the slave patrol, exists to protect private property and maintain racial capitalism. Research shows that social services like housing, health care, and employment are what keep people safe. Students, especially students of color, have echoed these facts and long called for TESC to disband its police, but the college ignores them. TESC’s disregard for student wellbeing became shockingly apparent after the death of Jonathan Rodriguez, a TESC student who died from carbon monoxide poisoning in their campus housing on December 11th, 2023. Two other students were also hospitalized as a result of TESC’s gross negligence – TESC knew for years that the housing needed maintenance, but it chose to invest money elsewhere. Reallocating funds away from policing and towards crucial amenities like safe, affordable housing and free parking, would significantly improve the quality of life for TESC students.

Perhaps the most damaging effect of the article and subsequent news is that the air was taken out of the local movement for Palestinian liberation. Palestine solidarity actions have been an entry point for countless young people over the last seven months. Claiming TESC has agreed to a divestment process implies to students and community allies that change will come through internal institutional processes, thus removing the power from the masses and placing it into the hands of a few. Some even believe divestment is imminent, if not already won. In turn, many who would have stepped up and joined the grassroots struggle are staying home.

Nonetheless, the gains made during the encampment’s existence should be acknowledged. Relationships and friendships were built, the bridge between student organizers and community organizers was strengthened, and political education and revolutionary skills were attained. Alumni, current, and former faculty showed up for students. Young students stepped into their power for the first time. Community members rallied to take care of the encampment by donating food, supplies, money, time and talents. The local movement for liberation grew, but the signing of the MOU and the narratives afterward have cut that growth short.

As we enter the 8th month of Israel’s genocidal campaign, as people in Haiti, Sudan, Congo, and elsewhere around the world are increasingly suffering, as cop cities are built around the U.S., and as more people endure climate chaos, the broader movement for liberation continues to grow. People are continuing to mobilize, despair is being transformed into acts of solidarity, and the revolution is being built.

It has been said that we can’t talk about hope if we can’t see reality. As a student at TESC who was involved in the encampment, I have written this article to clarify reality.

From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will Be Free.

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Olympia - Approximately 350 concerned Suget Sound citizens gathered in…