On Feb. 1, the Student Government Organization (SGO) responded to the college’s investigations into disciplinary action for student protestors by passing a resolution and statement. In a school-wide email titled “Statement in Support of First Amendment Rights and Opposition to Unfair Punishments by Swarthmore College Administration,” the SGO criticized the college for failing to uphold the Quaker tradition of nonviolent protest and its promise to protect the rights of students.
“In their own words, Swarthmore College has declared its support for the right to peaceful assembly for more than 150 years,” the statement read. “The College has assured students that their participation in nonviolent demonstrations would have no negative impact on their application or admissions to Swarthmore. However, recent actions by the administration have cast doubts on the sincerity of these commitments.”
SGO announced in a separate email that it had also voted on the issue of divestment from Israel, reaffirming its support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. It passed a statement calling for an ethical investment committee and the end to college investment in companies that violate human rights law. “Our aim is to ensure the endowment aligns with ethical financial management
principles and does not contribute to or endorse actions conflicting with our commitment to
peace and justice,” the statement read. “As representatives of the student body, we recognize the paramount importance of advocating for ethical investments.”
SGO did not vote to adopt an accompanying resolution, which is not the first instance in which they have struggled with addressing ethical investment and BDS. When they first voted on a BDS resolution in 2019, it eventually passed after two votes. The final vote was held in secret with Public Safety officers in attendance due to harassment from social media accounts on X, formerly known as Twitter, that called on their followers to protest at the meeting.
In a sign of changing student discourse around Israel-Palestine in the past five years, particularly since Oct. 7, SGO’s reaffirmation of their BDS resolution occurred with none of the public outcry of the 2019 vote, even amidst heightened tensions in the national college climate. However, its votes were far from unanimous. The statement on BDS passed with nine votes for, four against, and four abstaining. According to a source with knowledge of the proceedings, the resolution failed to pass due to the stipulation that resolutions require a majority of all SGO members, not just members present, to vote in approval.
“SGO is not perfect, but we are trying to advocate for the student body in the ways we can,” said Liv Medeiros-Sakimoto, president of SGO, in an email to The Phoenix. “We have the power to speak to (aka email) the students, the administration, and more. But I also want to emphasize that if people have concerns or problems with SGO, our doors are always open and we welcome feedback and productive discussion. We are students trying to help students. We take time to do things and we work hard. But we can’t help if no one communicates what they need help with. Even if you do not agree with what we do, you can still be kind and respectful.”