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Gross misconduct in APIRL’s handling of SJP’s divestment request

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The Stanford University administration committed gross misconduct in hearing and rejecting the divestment request submitted by Stanford Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). Susan Weinstein, Chair of the Advisory Panel on Investment Responsibility and Licensing (APIRL), which heard the request and advised the Stanford Board of Trustees on it, served on the Board of Directors of Stanford Hillel, an organization officially opposed, locally and internationally, to divestment as it relates to Israel/Palestine.

SJP submitted our divestment request in April of 2014, and we formally presented to the APIRL in May and October of 2014. Weinstein told us that she resigned from the Hillel Board on Jan. 26, 2015. Weinstein confirmed to us that she guided the APIRL’s handling of the request, and she deliberated and voted on SJP’s request, all while being on the Board of Stanford Hillel. The entire process of the APIRL and the Board of Trustees was thus fatally compromised. Basic standards of fairness in these kinds of administrative proceedings require that the person presiding over the process cannot be an institutional opponent or supporter of a contesting party.

The statement of the Board of Trustees, which was presumably in line with the APIRL’s recommendation, echoes the cautions about “divisiveness” and “complexity” in the positions of the Coalition for Peace (CFP), the main student organization opposed to divestment. Stanford Hillel supported the CFP financially and organizationally, at the expense of the opinions and voices of Jewish students in favor of divestment. Furthermore, the Board of Trustees’ refusal to even investigate the well-documented allegations of substantial social injury to Palestinians mirrors Hillel’s policy of censoring discussion about divestment. This similarity in the positions of the Board of Trustees, Hillel and the CFP raises grave doubts about the integrity of the administration’s process, given Weinstein’s dual role as a director of Hillel and the Chair of the APIRL.

To be clear, we are not opposed to members of the APIRL having previously existing opinions on divestment — we imagine most did. What we cannot accept is having a member of the board of directors of an organization explicitly and actively opposed to our request being the person in charge of hearing it.

An analogy may be useful. Would you trust the fairness of a university hearing about discrimination based on sexual orientation if it were chaired by a member of the Board of the Boy Scouts of America — an organization which officially discriminates against, in their words, “open and avowed homosexuals?” In our case, we are almost certain that the Stanford administration would not have allowed the APIRL to be chaired by a director of a pro-divestment organization, such as the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.

We are alarmed at the university administration’s blatant misconduct in this process, and we expect that Stanford will correct the situation immediately. We believe that the only reasonable remedy is an entirely new review for SJP’s divestment request, from which Weinstein should recuse herself. We eagerly await the administration’s response — we want to help Stanford end its complicity in the suffering of and violence against Palestinians as soon as possible.

Stanford Students for Justice in Palestine

Contact the Stanford Students for Justice in Palestine at StanfordSJP ‘at’ gmail.com