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Episcopal university considers divestment from Israel

A pro-Palestinian rally began on April 30, 2024, at All Saints Chapel on the campus of Southern University, an academic institution based in Sewanee, Tennessee, affiliated with the Episcopal Church.
A pro-Palestinian rally began on April 30, 2024, at All Saints Chapel on the campus of Southern University, an academic institution based in Sewanee, Tennessee, affiliated with the Episcopal Church. | Courtesy of University of the South

A Tennessee university affiliated with the Episcopal Church has agreed to consider a process of divestment from Israel in response to student protests on campus against the war in Gaza precipitated by the October 7 terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas.

Southern University, located in Sewanee, saw approximately 75 students stage a pro-Palestinian protest at All Saints Chapel that began April 30 and continued through early May.

University spokesperson Parker Oliver told The Christian Post that while there are “no concrete divestment plans,” discussions on the issue will be part of developing a formal framework. environmental, social and governance (ESG) regarding “any new investment policy”.

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“The university strives to align endowment investments with its values. However, to date there has been no formal process to evaluate this alignment,” Oliver added via email.

“This new ESG framework will formally align endowment investments with university values ​​and principles. This new ESG framework will also provide an opportunity for university stakeholders, including students, to provide their views to the Board of Regents’ Investment Management Committee.

Oliver also told CP that university leadership expects the ESG framework to be in place by New Year’s Day 2025.

Like many other universities in the United States, the University of the South saw students stage a protest on campus to oppose the Israeli war in Gaza.

On April 30, university leadership sent an email to the campus community explaining that students have the “right to assemble and express their opinions” and that the protest did not interfere with the operation of the campus nor damaged any buildings.

The April 30 email added that university officials were meeting with student protesters about their demands and that they were closely monitoring the protest “for any activity that could compromise student safety or disrupt activities.” normal activities of the university.

After meeting with Rob Pearigen, vice chancellor and president of the university, the students agreed to disband on May 1 so that the 2024 graduation photo could be taken.

Pearigen met with protesters again on May 2. Some, however, decided to climb on the roof of the chapel, the manager warning them that any disruption of campus activities would be punished.

“I have asked the students to end the protest on the roof and in front of All Saints Chapel and refrain from disrupting university activities. The university respects the right to free expression and will allow students to relocate, if they wish, to ensure the safety of everyone involved,” Pearigen wrote in a May 2 email.

“I have also clarified that many of the actions taken constitute blatant violations of the student code of conduct, and that students who remain in the All Saints Chapel area, including on the roof and on the terrace, will be liable to suspension or expulsion.”

An additional meeting between students and university officials was held two weeks ago, the Episcopal News Service reported, which resulted in more detailed explanations of how school investments would work.

Several colleges were the scene of multi-day pro-Palestinian protests, with some demonstrations turning violent and several incidents of anti-Semitism reported by Jewish students and others.

Regarding the protest at Southern University, Oliver told CP that “while we cannot comment on the specific feelings of the protesters, based on our observation of the protest, we believe that anti-Semitism was not a motivation “.

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