Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Support independent student journalism. Support independent student journalism. Support independent student journalism.
The Dartmouth
June 21, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Alsheikh: Yes, Actually — Dartmouth’s Endowment is a Political Tool

The endowment is always going to be a political tool; the question is toward whose political vision it will be directed.

Back in November, shortly after College President Sian Leah Beilock’s first round of arrests of two peaceful student protesters, I wrote a piece elaborating on the case for divestment and the arguments behind it. At the time, I was in Hanover.

Now it is May, shortly after the College’s second round of brutal arrests against 90 individuals at a pro-Palestinian protest, and I am writing this piece to elaborate the student case for divestment once again. Yet this time, I am in Israel-Palestine, interning at a legal center for the minority rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel. In my time here, I’ve been exposed to many new perspectives regarding the affairs of this land and its people — both Jews and Arabs. I have also watched events unfold in Hanover with the benefit of these new perspectives, and I cannot help but comment on something that Beilock wrote in her latest statement to campus. To me, it seems obvious that this statement was a blatant mistruth, if not an outright lie — that “Dartmouth’s endowment is not a political tool.” 

In my work here in the Holy Land, I spend every day dealing with cases of violent police suppression directed at those who protest the war or the systems that enable it. Now, I am being forced to witness those same tactics applied against my fellow students back home — and Beilock is trying to tell me that the endowment isn’t being used as a political tool?

No, from my position with one foot in Hanover and one foot in the Holy Land, the truth is very clear to me: the endowment is a political tool. The endowment, through its investments, connects the Beilock administration to the Israeli government’s violent suppression of dissent. Even outside of the Holy Land it should be clear for all to see that the endowment is being used as a political tool by Dartmouth to support an ideology that has brought riot police to our campus, criminalized critical thought and dissent and birthed the concept of “Brave Spaces” only to beat the infant to death with a police baton. Our administration and its financial interests are intimately tied to the politics of the Israeli state in which it does business. More broadly, the elite, neoliberal American university — in which dissent is often carefully policed and suppressed when a serious student movement challenges the status quo of campus capitalism — is a particular political project, and each dollar of our endowment directly supports it.  

To some, it might seem odd to call a university a political project — but after recent events there can be no doubt that it is. If there was doubt, it was smashed when the College called in police to silence peaceful protests against the actions of her administration. It was smashed when we saw the governor of our state immediately defend and praise the President of our college for her mass arrests of students. It was smashed when we saw international pro-Israel advocacy groups immediately take to Twitter to applaud Beilock for her violent suppression of peaceful protests. Now, with that doubt shattered, we can no longer pretend that we live on a magical island safe and free from being “political” just because those with power tell us that. 

We must confront the truth: everything is political, especially the endowment of an Ivy League institution. Indeed our endowment, billions of dollars sitting in an account that belongs not only to one of the country’s most elite academic institutions but is also deeply connected to the financial markets and political structures of the world, will always be a political tool. This is the simple reality of capitalism: no sum of money that size will ever be disconnected from a political vision. Now, after we realize that truth, the real question facing us students today is this: what sort of political vision do we demand? 

My fellow students and I imagine a Dartmouth in which every cent of our endowment is invested in uplifting our students, faculty and the education they both came here to create together. We envision a college in which not a single dollar of tuition money is spent on any war or any system of oppression, nor on any institution that bears complicity in any kind of human rights abuse. Yet, we now find our endowment invested in companies with connections to the system of apartheid in Israel-Palestine, well-documented and recognized by major international human rights organizations in Israel and around the world. And so, we oppose any money given to that government which will inevitably reinforce these human rights abuses. The same is true of any money that would be invested in companies with connections to Hamas or other Palestinian militant groups — we fervently oppose any dollar of our tuition given to fund any human rights abuses in Israel-Palestine, because we find such an idea antithetical to the human values that our liberal arts education is supposed to teach us. 

This is our political vision for Dartmouth: a college free from any complicity in crimes against humanity, which does not arrest us en masse on our own Green, where we can live and study in peace with the knowledge that our books are not soaked in the blood of Israelis and Palestinians. We are rightly demanding the endowment be used as a political tool for achieving this political vision, instead of the interests of the Israeli state and the American elites who support it. We are rightly demanding that the College divest from companies with connections to human rights abuses in Israel-Palestine, including those committed in support of the Israeli government’s apartheid system. Especially important are corporations such as Amazon and Northrop Grumman which directly arm and supply the Israeli state; both of which Dartmouth is currently invested in.

Of course, Beilock and her allies will oppose this vision to the bitter end. We have no illusions about this. History has taught us that it is only in the last breaths of apartheid that universities finally mobilize to end their complications in that system when it is easy and all risk of backlash has disappeared. Yet we also know that any student movement at critical mass will always and inevitably overcome the business interests of university administrators, as we learned in South Africa. Thus, we will push on, until the day comes when whoever sits in Parkhurst is left with no other option than to return the endowment to us, the students. Until that day we will continue resisting, even if a thousand of us have to march to jail tomorrow, even if our cry falls on the deaf ears and sealed-off hearts of those who would arrest us for our dissent. 

This cry is the true meaning of Vox Clamintis in Deserto. I, from my seat in the Holy Land, can hear it ringing out, a cry timeless and true — the same cry lifted up by generations of Dartmouth students against the injustices of their times. This is a cry greater in strength than any number of the police in riot gear called to destroy it.

Opinion articles represent the views of their author(s), which are not necessarily those of The Dartmouth.