Middle East studies in the News
Students Advocate for Ethical Spending of School Funds [incl. Nada Elia]
by Keiko DeLuca
Decolonize UW, Divest UW, and Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights (SUPER UW) hosted a forum on Thursday night to renew discourse on divestment in light of the uncertainty surrounding this year's election.
Though each of the groups champion different causes, they have found solidarity through their push for divestment.
The forum focused on advocating for the UW's divestment from companies that directly fund fossil fuels, private prisons, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
By using the UW endowment to invest in such companies, activists say that the school is promoting environmental destruction and human rights abuse.
"We decided, as the three divestment groups, that UW needed to be more accountable to the money that we're spending," said a leader of SUPER UW who wished to remain anonymous.
SUPER UW is a student group that focuses on advocating for equal rights and justice for the Palestinian people.
Each host group selected a speaker to represent and educate the audience on the issues that surround their community and activist organizations.
Divest UW brought in former UW student and environmental activist Angela Feng to talk about the importance of continued pressure to mobilize the school to divest from fossil fuels.
In 2015, the UW Board of Regents voted to divest from coal companies three years after Divest UW sent them a petition.
"We are fighting against companies that put profit over people," Feng said.
An activist and artist identified only as Bypolar spoke on behalf of Decolonize UW. Bypolar stressed the importance of acknowledging the American prison system's part in keeping people of color from getting higher education.
"You can't get one drop of college in prison," Bypolar said.
Decolonize UW is an intersectional movement of students, faculty, alumni, and the surrounding community with the mission of fighting systems of oppression that exist in higher education.
Bypolar also mentioned the ways in which the UW benefits from the labor of incarcerated persons who often work under harsh and unfair conditions.
"Divestment is crucial for prisons," Bypolar said. "The UW buys so much furniture that is made by prison laborers. Other people are getting wealthy off of slave labor."
SUPER UW was represented by activist and writer Nada Elia. Elia is a Palestinian who has worked throughout her career to advocate for the Palestinian people.
Elia spoke to the power that divestment activism can hold and has held in the past. During the South African apartheid, student groups organized similar protests against the South African government. Elia gave the example of Nelson Mandela giving credit to activists at the University of California schools for successfully pushing for divestment against the the country's government.
"Divestment is our way of saying we don't want to be a part of that system," Elia said. "We are complicit unless we divest."
A key point brought up by the guest speakers was that of intersectionality between groups. All three speakers pointed out that different types of injustices are often linked together even if it is not obvious on the surface.
"We act like it's three things when it's really one thing," Bypolar said.
Elia also noted the importance of being aware of injustices in one's community and standing in solidarity with them.
"We need to be aware that I got your back and you got mine," Elia said. "We are in this together."Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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