The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

SJP Publishes Open Letter to President Jenkins Sparking Discourse with Administration

On May 4 the Bates College Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter published an open letter addressed to President Garry Jenkins, calling on both him and the administration to recognize the suffering of Palestinian people and to take subsequent institutional action.

The letter, published on the club’s Instagram account, describes the current movement of students calling on their institutions to divest from corporations which do business with the State of Israel, specifically weapons manufacturers and tech companies. Many of these student demands have resulted in violent confrontation between law enforcement, students and their institutions.

In addressing this, the letter reads, “it is important to remember their main message: solidarity with and resistance against the immense suffering and catastrophic loss occurring in Gaza as a direct result of Israeli aggression.”

The letter went on to describe the current situation in Gaza, including Gazan, journalist and child death counts.

SJP’s address then provided examples of Bates’ failure to uphold its “abolitionist roots, transparency to its students, and inclusive environment,” citing its hesitation in divesting from South Africa in 1986, former President Clayton Spencer’s 2014 rejection of an academic boycott of Israeli universities and the Bates administration’s 2021 response to pro-Palestine chalk graffiti on campus.

The letter concludes with demands on President Jenkins to “[recognize] the humanity of the Palestinian people and their unconditional, fundamental  right to freedom, peace, and life,” by making Bates’ investment history available to students, “to divest from systems of oppression and genocide if necessary” and to “Call out anti-Semitism and anti-Arab racism on Bates’ campus.”

In a statement given to The Student, the college wrote, “We acknowledge Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at Bates College’s open letter to President Jenkins and are in dialogue with students.”

According to the college, several members of the club along with a faculty advisor met with Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer Geoff Swift to discuss Bates’ endowment. “The discussion between Geoff and SJP members included an overview of how the Bates endowment is invested and the limitations of what the college is able to access and share,” the statement said.

In the meeting, Swift clarified between the purpose of the endowment and the college’s single fee (tuition and room and board). The first encompasses the “college’s long-term investments” whereas the second “is used only to pay the college’s annual operating expenses” according to the statement from the college.

SJP Secretary Poppy Marsh ‘26 said, “The meeting was almost entirely about disclosure. We didn’t really talk about divestment at all.” However, when Swift breached the subject of divestment, “He didn’t seem convinced that it was an effective or viable option for the school to pursue.”

Marsh indicated that one of the main takeaways from the meeting was that the college works with Hall Capital Partners, an investment management firm that uses Full Consequence Investing (FCI) framework. According to their website, FCI “reflects our conviction that the pursuit of financial returns and thoughtful consideration of environmental and social investment outcomes are not only compatible but can also be mutually accretive.”

Chalk saying “Free Palestine” written on the walk to Merrill Gymnasium

FCI incorporates sustainability, environmental, social, and governance factors into their investment processes and decisions such that their investments generate positive impacts and outcomes in the world.

Bates has similar guidelines for their investments. During their meeting, SJP requested the school’s investment guidelines to understand how the school currently approaches their investments.

Swift also welcomed the club to send him a list of companies and would determine if the college had public investments in them and if so, how much was invested. “Broadly, our next move is, once we have the information, we can make more precise, specific asks of the school…It will help us better articulate what exactly we want from the school, and then also give us a better idea of what we’re negotiating for when we’re at that table with Geoff Swift.”

When asked about the significance of Bates’ participation in the disclose-divest movement, Marsh highlighted the symbolism of the movement. “We’re interested in…the solidarity of the movement, because even if it doesn’t matter to the Israeli economy, it matters to the United States.”

Marsh also asserted that in this form of activism, Bates upholds its educational messaging. “It just doesn’t make sense for Bates to tell us to be leaders and to be all this stuff and to represent the school in such a wonderful way and then and then not expect us to do something when we see something like this going on,” they added.

SJP plans to have more meetings with Swift and the administration to further their understanding of the college’s financial situation and to determine how the group can move forward with the college.

“SJP is genuinely dedicated and, and excited to work with the administration, and we’ve always been open to that. And we’re really grateful that they are wanting that they’re responding to our emails and sitting at the table with us. But that being said, we know what we want, and we know why we want it and that is not something that’s going to get topped out,” Marsh said. 

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About the Contributor
Trinity Poon
Trinity Poon, Managing News Editor
Trinity is a sophomore from Sandwich, MA with a double major in English and French. She has been writing for The Student since the Fall of her first-year. She is a member of the Women's Ultimate Frisbee team, Cold Front, and plays the trumpet at Bates. When she is not writing and tossing disks, Trinity enjoys reading, running and spending time outdoors. 

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    Blair Frank 1989May 14, 2024 at 4:36 PM

    As an alumni who is personally responsible for over 1% of the college’s endowment assets through my endowment giving of over $4M, I can only say that SJP, divestment, and BDS more broadly are a single point of view, not the view of the majority. As a Jew, I obviously hold very different views about Zionism than these students who have benefited, not contributed, to the endowment. I sent a letter to the Bates Student about my concerns and intentions to disengage from the college for further donations, including the unpaid $2M in scholarships I was currently funding. The student run paper refused to publish that letter to the broader community. This is in line with other student papers, including the Columbia U paper that refused to break the story of the student that called for the death of all Zionists. That story was ultimately picked up by the NYT instead. Burying discussion, promoting singular points of view, dehumanizing opposition won’t be good for any colleges, particularly those with such fragile and donor dependent financials as Bates College.