The student news site of Hamline University.

The Oracle

The student news site of Hamline University.

The Oracle

The student news site of Hamline University.

The Oracle

Encampment continues following Murray, Watters meeting

Pro-Palestine student demonstrators met with minimal commitments from president and Board of Trustees chair toward divestment, the Old Main encampment will continue “for the foreseeable future.”
Sabine Benda
Protestors on the Old Main lawn cheered as SFJ organizers including June Gromis (left) walked toward Anderson Center for their meeting with President Kathleen Murray and Board of Trustees Chair Ellen Watters.

Hamline Students for Justice (SFJ) leadership met with President Kathleen Murray and Board of Trustees Chair Ellen Watters following the weekend-long occupation calling for disclosure of Hamline’s investments and divestment from Israeli companies or those that benefit the Israeli government. The occupation — calling awareness to Israel’s killing of a projected 35,000 Palestinians since Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7 — began in the provost’s suite located in Old Main on April 26 and shifted to Old Main’s lawn the following day after students were granted assurance of the meeting, as well as a guarantee of amnesty.

What we learned:

  • SFJ released a petition to all staff, faculty, students and community members on April 28 at 10 p.m. and by the time of the meeting on April 29 at 4:30 p.m. the petition had received 264 responses. To the question, “Do you call on the Board of Trustees to disclose and divest its investments in companies implicated in the ongoing genocide in Gaza?” The “yes” response received 98.3% of the votes.
  • President Murray gave the students a two week timeline guarantee that the Board of Trustees (BOT) would be familiarized with the SFJ leadership’s demands and concerns. The president clarified that the BOT would not necessarily have a decided course of action by that time, simply that they would be familiarized with the concerns students posed.
  • President Murray, in communication with the investment consultants, received a rough estimate that 0.1% of Hamline’s investments could be connected to Israeli companies.
  • At the meeting, SFJ leadership requested a statement be made from the president saying she spoke with and heard the demands of the students. The president clarified that a decision about a statement falls on the Leadership team, a team President Murray will meet with in the morning (April 30). President Murray agreed that if the team decides in favor of releasing a statement, that SFJ leadership would be contacted about the timeline and nature of said statement.
  • President Murray confirmed that if SFJ prepared a letter for the Academic Student Affairs Committee (ASAC), that Travis Matthews — the sole student presence at any BOT committee meeting — would be able to share the letter directly with that committee.
Representatives from Hamline SFJ met in Anderson Center with campus leaders (left to right) Ivy Evrard, Vice President and Dean of Students Patti Klein-Kersten, President Kathleen Murray and Board of Trustees Chair Ellen Watters. (Sabine Benda)

Following the meeting, students say they will not be ending the encampment on Old Main’s lawn, and have committed to staying until demands are taken more seriously and met with more urgency.
“We are committed to continuing the encampment as long as it’s necessary and as long as it’s productive to fulfilling our demands and getting our demands addressed,” junior June Gromis said. Gromis is a lead organizer of the ongoing occupation. Gromis was also one of the six students who began the occupation at Hamline, and one of three who stayed until negotiations led the group to re-strategize to an outdoor encampment on Saturday, April 26 at 6 p.m.
The meeting between the student protesters, President Murray and BOT chair Ellen Watters concluded around 5:40 p.m. after a little over an hour of discussion.
Hamline’s investments are primarily managed by a third-party investment company, with some by the Piper Investment Club. President Murray was able to confirm that after an early look and rough projection of Hamline’s investments by the third party, it was estimated that about 0.1% of Hamline’s investments are in Israeli-owned companies. According to IRS tax records, Hamline’s investments in public securities sat at $113,733,700 in 2022, the most recent year for which data is available.
Murray also committed to the potential of releasing a statement about having met with the student protesters about their demands, contingent upon discussions within the administrative leadership team in their meeting tomorrow. The student protesters will be alerted with the timeline for publication and subject of the statement when and if one is drafted.

As a nonprofit business, some details of Hamline’s finances are released to the public annually in the IRS Form 990.
For the fiscal year ending in June 2022, the most recent year with available data, Hamline reported its end-of-year investments in publicly traded securities as $113,733,700.

External President of Hamline Undergraduate Student Congress (HUSC), Travis Matthews, is a sitting member of the Administrative Student Affairs Committee and is able to present a letter to the committee once written by the student protesters.
Matthews expressed support for the students’ right to protest and express their freedom of speech as the encampment was assembled on April 26.
“My biggest concern is, I don’t want students to feel like their rights are being suppressed on this campus, and I think Hamline and especially Public Safety is trying their best to make sure they’re not infringing on those rights,” Matthews said.
Despite frustration with how little progress has been made to this point, senior and original Old Main occupant Genavieve Billiet also observed the generally conflict-free approach the university had taken.
“They told us before they’re never going to involve cops unless it’s absolutely necessary, and this is not absolutely necessary. It’s so peaceful,” Billiet said.

Story continues below advertisement
Junior and SFJ organizer June Gromis (left), senior Ruby Schroeder and sophomore Sarah Tadvick raise a pro-Palestine banner over the entrance to Old Main, Hamline’s main administrative building. (Sabine Benda)

The meeting did not reach a satisfactory conclusion for the student protesters, and immediately following her return to the encampment, junior June Gromis announced that the encampment will continue until their demands of disclosure and divestment are adequately met.
“I was honestly surprised they did disclose the little tiny bit of information that they do definitely have bonds that are connected to Israel,” Billiet said. “[I am] really disappointed in the lack of willingness to talk more about the specifics that are happening in Palestine, and that they see it as a controversial issue and see it as a religious issue […] when it shouldn’t be treated as a religious issue. It should be treated as what it is,” Billiet said.
Gromis also addressed the varying viewpoints from campus on the protest and expressed her hopes for all perspectives on campus to feel safe to exercise their free speech.
“Several people on this campus who hold [clashing perspectives], have had the opportunity to publish op-eds, and the opportunity to publish letters to the editor and make their voice heard, and I fully welcome that, and I’m glad they’ve been able to do that,” Gromis said. “Just in the same stroke, we are gonna continue to practice our right to take up space and make ourselves heard on campus and hold ourselves accountable to the values that we strive for, which are, ultimately, the collective liberation of all marginalized people.”
Student protesters expressed exhaustion over reiterating their moral reasons for why they are protesting Hamline’s lack of disclosure as well as silence in terms of addressing what is unfolding in Palestine.
“I understand from a logical perspective why a university, a private institution, is so hesitant to say anything direct like that. They have different motivations and different interests than we do. We are trying to do this because of our moral consciousness,” senior Zach Linkous said. “The institution, insofar that it has a moral consciousness, is more run by business interests […] and not rather [the] interests of 35,000 people dead in Palestine.”

A rally of Hamline community members waited for Students for Justice (SFJ) representatives to report details of their meeting with President Murray and Board of Trustees Chair Ellen Watters. Junior June Gromis led a speech following the meeting, informing the rally that no guarantee of divestment had been made, and there had been some (a roughly projected 0.1%) of Hamline’s investment portfolio invested in Israeli companies. (Sabine Benda)

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Oracle Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *