After more than 6 hours of tense and emotion-infused debate on the night of February 19, 2015, a coalition of students at Northwestern University who called themselves “NU Divest” successfully pushed their resolution through the Associated Student Government Senate. The resolution, which passed 24-22-3, called on the university to be more financially transparent, invest responsibly, and most importantly, divest from six corporations that are commonly understood by human rights activists to actively contribute to the brutal Israeli Occupation of Palestine.
Though the university released an official statement in response to the vote stating that it will “review this resolution thoughtfully,” and is willing to meet with student representatives, Northwestern has yet to take any other formal action with regards to the resolution. However, Northwestern President Morton Schapiro also referenced NU Divest’s campaign in an op-ed he wrote in March, claiming that, “It might be relevant to remind people that elected student representatives have every right to recommend whatever they want, just as the administration has every right not to abide by what they suggest, and aggrieved students have a process to adjudicate harassment charges against a faculty member. It seems inappropriate to me for a college president to comment on a student vote or faculty op-ed, but I understand why others might disagree.”
With these non-actions and dismissive statements in mind, NU Divest decided a reminder to the university community of the sheer gravity of the situation was in order. At approximately 12PM this afternoon, members of NU Divest staged a takeover of one of the Norris University Center’s highly visible “Campus Life Awards” billboards, replacing photos of the award winners with those of victims of the ongoing Occupation whose deaths were in some way directly linked to Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Caterpillar, Elbit Systems, G4S, and Hewlett-Packard–the six corporations outlined in NU Divest’s resolution. The corresponding biographies of each of the award winners were also replaced with details about each of the victim’s deaths.
The modified posters were left up for approximately 45 minutes before Norris administrators forced the students to take the narratives down, citing violation of the university’s flyering policy. However, photos of the event continued to spread online using the hashtag “#VictimsOfYourComplicity.”
It remains to be seen whether Northwestern officials will have a response to today’s action. In the meantime, NU Divest will continue to prove that its campaign for human rights will not rest until administrative apathy ceases, and that even their silent protests cannot be totally silenced.
Read the full statement on the demonstration below. (Photos via author, NU Divest, and MEChA de Northwestern).