Nineteen students at Brown University have embarked on a hunger strike, demanding the institution divest from companies allegedly profiting from human rights abuses in Palestine. This action is the latest escalation in a series of protests and sit-ins across American universities, denouncing Israel’s military campaign in Gaza.
The hunger strike, initiated on February 2nd, underscores the students’ unwavering commitment to their cause. Niyanta Nepal, one of the striking students, emphasized the extensive efforts undertaken before resorting to this drastic measure. These efforts included vigils, programs, and sit-ins, with over 60 students previously arrested during demonstrations at Brown University.
Brown University‘s involvement in the divestment debate reflects a broader trend sweeping campuses nationwide. Recent months have witnessed mounting pressure on colleges and local governments to sever ties with entities linked to Israel and its military operations. This movement gained momentum following the 2020 divestment proposal by Brown’s Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Policies (ACCRIP).
The call for divestment targets companies such as RTX Corporation, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, and Airbus, which the students allege are involved in arms manufacturing and supply to Israel. Despite Brown’s assertion of not directly investing in defense stocks, the students remain steadfast in their demand for ethical investment practices.
Brown University President Christina Paxson’s response to the hunger strike has drawn criticism from the student body. In a letter, Paxson expressed reluctance to engage in divestment discussions during board meetings, citing concerns about the university taking sides on contentious issues. This stance has fueled the determination of the hunger strikers, who draw inspiration from past victories through student activism, such as divestment from South African apartheid and other ethical causes.
Despite facing significant challenges, including the recent resignations of university presidents amid allegations of antisemitism, the hunger strikers remain resolute. Their commitment to amplifying the Palestinian cause has garnered widespread support, with daily events and online promotion sustaining momentum. Etta Robb, one of the striking students, embodies this determination, driven by a sense of responsibility to address human rights violations.