Evergreen signs agreement with students to move toward divesting from companies profiting in Gaza

Officials at The Evergreen State College in Olympia and students with the Evergreen Gaza Solidarity Encampment reached an agreement in which the public college will work toward divesting from “companies that profit from gross human rights violations and/or the occupation of Palestinian territories.”

The Memorandum of Understanding was struck after the student-led group occupied the school’s Red Square April 26.

The negotiations happened late Tuesday evening.

“At the end everybody was really proud of how the negotiations went,” Evergreen spokesperson Kelly Von Holtz told McClatchy Thursday.

As part of the agreement with school officials, the encampment was cleared Wednesday.

The signed Memorandum of Understanding between college leadership and the Evergreen Gaza Solidarity Encampment lays out four policy questions that student and faculty-led committees will continue to work to sort out.

The Investment Policy Disappearing Task Force will look at plans to address divesting from certain companies. Recommendations will be due in fall to be considered by college leadership.

The Grant Acceptance Policy Disappearing Task Force will decide on criteria for accepting or refusing grants “based on the purposes of the grant” which the task force will present to the board of trustees in the fall.

“Criteria would include such considerations as whether grants facilitate illegal occupations abroad, limit free speech, or support oppression of minorities,” the MOU reads.

A Civilian Oversight of the Police Department Disappearing Task Force will be propose a new structure for the Police Services Community Review Board, including updating the Police Services Standard Operating Procedures.

Additionally, an Alternative Models of Crisis Response Disappearing Task Force will propose an alternative “non-law enforcement model for 24-hour crisis response” by 2025.

As part of the MOU, Evergreen will be required to make a statement that defends the rights and free speech of students and must include a paragraph from the President stating:

“Like many, I am horrified and grief-stricken by the violence and suffering being inflicted due to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I wish to see an end to the violence and restoration of international law, including respect for the March 25 United Nations resolution. Specifically, the resolution called for a lasting, sustainable ceasefire honored by all parties, immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, expanded humanitarian assistance, and the protection of civilians. Additionally, I mourn the destruction of universities and hospitals, the (killing) of journalists, and want to see the release of any prisoner being held without due process.”

Further, Evergreen will no longer approve study abroad programs to Israel, which it has done in the past, Von Holtz said. Students also will not be allowed to travel to Gaza or the West Bank for study abroad programs, although Von Holtz was uncertain whether the college has previously approved study abroad programs there.

The MOU also outlined the college’s commitment to diversity and the prohibition of “discrimination based on shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics, including Jews and Palestinians.”

The encampment at Evergreen was just one of many happening on college campuses around the U.S. and across the globe in response to the situation in Gaza. Since Oct. 7, 2023, more than 34,000 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli government after a Hamas-led attack on Israeli civilians killed over 1,100, according to national news reports.

On Wednesday, a second encampment occupied the lawns of the University of Washington campus in Seattle. The first encampment occupied the area Monday. Both groups are calling on UW to cut ties with Israel.

Police in some areas, including at Columbia University in New York City and the University of California at Los Angeles, have cracked down on protesters with force and arrests. More than 2,000 Pro-Palestinian protesters have been arrested so far in the U.S.