Dear Father Garanzini,
Surely my hunch that a university president has more pressing things to do than respond to an email from an assistant professor is grounded in reality. But I do think it is important that you and other administrators consider this viewpoint, which I know from discussions with colleagues is shared in some form by a number of faculty and students.
With all due respect for your decades of service to Loyola and other universities, and for your commitment to civility, I must say that you make a serious mistake by dismissing the resolution to divest from corporations linked to human rights violations in Palestine not by arguing against its substance but by the blanket assertion that “Resolutions are not only ineffective (and useless in a case like this), but continue to pit student against student.”
The act of investing in Israeli companies is material support for that government and its ongoing occupation of Palestine. It is entirely appropriate, and indeed keeping with our university’s central mission of seeking social justice, for those who find that occupation immoral to call for the cessation of such investments. Indeed, as you surely know, such calls with respect to the apartheid government of South Africa played an important role in the fall of that system.
Even if the current and future administration of this university has no intention of complying with such a resolution, the act of introducing and debating it forces the issue into the light of day, making some people who had not paid attention to the issue consider its merits (or lack thereof). Urging the parties to “come together and talk” is no substitute for this wider public discussion, and sidesteps the question of the very direct support for Israeli policies that is constituted by continued investment.
One may wish that this issue were not so divisive and controversial. I know nothing of this resolution or debate or the actions of its proponents. Perhaps its proponents have argued rashly and disrespectfully on its behalf, whether out of bias or anger at what they regard as the oppression and suffering of their families and their nation.
But is the quest for social justice not inherently divisive at times? Does what strikes some as freedom and women’s control over their own bodies not strike others as the murder of children? Does what strikes some as discrimination on the basis of sexuality not strike others as an infringement on their religious liberty and God’s commandments? Does what strikes some as a matter of civil rights not strike others as an infringement on their freedom of association? Do universities such as ours indeed not provide their students and society at large a venue for the discussion — which sometimes involves “hurt and suspicion” — of such issues?
If indeed the university “takes these matters seriously” as a substantive issue, and not merely as a matter of campus controversy or a public relations problem, I urge you to respond to the resolution on its substance, by explaining why you and the board disagree with this resolution. As it stands, you do our students and the entire Loyola community a disservice by dismissing this measure simply because it is divisive and controversial.
Benjamin Johnson is an assistant history professor at Loyola University Chicago