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Pro-ceasefire activists continue to push WMU to divest from Israel

Close up view of a Palestinian flag drawn on pavement with chalk
Sehvilla Mann
A Palestinian flag drawn in chalk on pavement at WMU's campus, photographed May 1, 2024

The WMU Divestment Coalition has been in talks with the administration since early May. The group is encouraging supporters to comment at Board of Trustees meeting.

Members of a group pushing Western Michigan University to “divest from war” and support a ceasefire in Palestine plan to comment at a WMU Board of Trustees meeting tomorrow.

The WMU Divestment Coalition removed its encampment from Western’s campus in early May after administrators agreed to meet with the group. Members say they helped Western draft a statement on the conflict in Palestine.

But the protest’s organizers say WMU President Edward Montgomery’s recent statement calling for peace was a “watered-down” version of what they’d discussed. The group released its own statement in response.

The group is encouraging supporters to speak out during Thursday’s Board of Trustees meeting. Western Senior Marissa Wagner is one of the coalition’s organizers. She said Montgomery has yet to sit down with the group.

“He needs to be involved in these meetings. He needs to engage with the students,” she said. “He hasn’t responded to a single email in our threads with the administration on our committee and I think that’s really, really telling, especially after the statement he put out.”

Western spokesperson Paula Davis told WMUK in an email that Montgomery has been “regularly briefed on the discussions” and has “provided guidance throughout.” She also said Montgomery’s statement was “similar to a version that had been discussed with demonstrators.”

WMU alumnus Roland Bissonnette is one of four students who have been meeting with the administration. He said the group does not expect divestment to be easy.

“We’re talking millions and millions of dollars in different hedge funds and joint bonds and investments all over the world, and it will be a long, slow, brutal, headache-riddled process,” he said. “But being an ethical consumer is hard.”

Bissonnette said he hopes the group will continue to meet with the school to discuss divestment and other ways to support Palestinian students and faculty.

“I know that the members of the joint student admin committee are good people,” he said. “I’m still hopeful and holding out in my heart that we can work together to make Western a kind of beacon for the rest of the country, for the rest of the world, for how to handle this.”