Sunrise Swarthmore Open Letter to SGO

Dear Swarthmore College Student Government Organization,

As a fixture of higher education, our school is inseparable from its endowment. The $2.116 billion that sits behind our name represents thousands of millions of units of political power. Every day our college makes a statement with that power. Currently, that statement is whatever the market decides has the highest yield.

We know that the market as it currently stands has led us to crisis. The market has incentivized the blasting of mountaintops, the drilling of oil deeper and more dangerously offshore. The market has made it profitable to drive pipelines through backyards, across water-supplies, and under playgrounds in low-income communities of color. The market has no plan to stop climate change, only to survive it — a futile goal when the survival of our species is at risk. 

Currently, the market is stacked against Palestine. Israel, as it currently stands, is a market for American weapons, construction equipment, and new, invasive surveillance technologies. Maintaining the occupation is extremely profitable — so long as organizations continue to invest in companies that maintain it. The very conditions that allow Israel to be a market for these technologies relies on the state’s control of water. The land on which Israel resides is in the 6th year of its worst drought in a hundred years. Israel, through the government-owned water corporation Mekorot, which controls a large portion of water in Israel-Palestine, allocates more water to factories and cities than they do to Gaza, whose aquifers have suffered from infrastructure problems exacerbated by Israel’s ongoing siege. According to a 2017 UN report, this control of water is worsening the drought to the point that Gaza may be unlivable as soon as 2020. Israel has lifted its economy out of the worst of the drought, and in doing so has worsened the effects of the drought on Palestinians, all to serve the interests of business. This is for-profit environmental racism. This is what our college’s investments enable.

Last year, you — SGO — held a referendum on doing away with the 1991 ban against moral investment. The year before that, you approved a referendum on divesting from fossil fuels. Both referenda were Sunrise Swarthmore’s attempts to repair our school’s moral ineptitude and enact positive change in the world. Ultimately, the student body voted in favor of divestment in both referenda, while the Board of Managers rejected both referenda.

Students for Justice in Palestine has been pushing Swarthmore to divest from companies that aid in the control of Palestinian life and which finance and carry out the destruction of homes, olive groves, and dignities. Their ask of you is the same as Sunrise’s was — allow our cause to verify its legitimacy based on student support. In order to achieve our ask, we presented signatures from little over 10% of the student body attesting to their support of banning the ban and divesting from fossil fuels. SJP provided six times that proportion of signatures and yet there is still hesitation.

We ask you, SGO, to treat our sister movements as you treated us. The precedent that you set in 2017 and 2018 should be followed in 2019, especially since the most recent case outperformed us. When a cause presents to you more than half the school’s signatures, when multiple other organizations express their support for the cause, and when that cause shows up en masse to defend their position, SGO has a responsibility to recognize that cause. Consider the desires of the student body, and establish a referendum to gauge genuine campus support.

Thank you,

Sunrise Movement Swarthmore — Mountain Justice