Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Since 1907
Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Professors circulate petition to divest from Israel

Professors Todd Vanden Berg and Darrell Rohl have circulated a petition to divest from the state of Israel that has collected 35 faculty and several staff signatures.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, divestment is a “set of economic sanctions” used by entities to protest a company or country’s actions. In this case, Vanden Berg and Rohl seek to divest from any company supporting the Israeli war effort in Gaza as a protest of the violence being committed there. “Nobody has the naive idea that this is going to financially hurt Israel. The idea is that it will marginalize the Israeli government on the global scene…that is the goal, to put them in a corner and isolate them,” said Vanden Berg

When Vanden Berg, a sociology professor, felt “called” to lead this divestment effort, he reached out to archaeology professor Darrell Rohl to offer his expertise in Middle Eastern history to the project. The two co-authored a letter to the board, but the day they sent this letter through Yammer to receive faculty signatures was the same day Boer’s resignation was announced. “Everyone’s eyes were on something else,” commented Vanden Berg.

Despite this, the letter requesting divestment received 35 faculty and several staff signatures, and Vanden Berg has continued to push his proposal forward over the seven weeks since he originally sent the letter. “Just this week I contacted President Elzinga again, and he immediately got back to me and said he was going to circle back to the financial subcommittee on the board of trustees and see where they are at,” said Vanden Berg.

Rohl has concerns that complete divestment may be a large, complex commitment. “I’ve heard from some people that this is a big ask, this may not even be possible,” said Rohl. According to Rohl, because the university uses investment management companies to manage their funds, identifying “each company or organization that is involved in the war effort is probably very, very difficult to do.”

Still, both Vanden Berg and Rohl believe their Christian faith calls them to request divestment from the board. Both emphasized that this was in no way a statement on the broader Israel-Palestine political conflict, but rather a response to the war in Gaza’s devastating impact on thousands of civilian lives. Rohl believes as a Christian institution, divestment is necessary  “because of our recognition of the image of God in Palestinians and in Israeli Jews.”

Vanden Berg believes that robust student support of the divestment letter will be instrumental, as this has been the case in previous divestment efforts. In 1985, Vanden Berg said, the college divested from any organizations that were profiting from the apartheid in South Africa. “That was led by students; it was pushed by students over at least two years before faculty and administration got on board,” Vanden Berg told Chimes. He hopes that his divestment letter will elicit a similar student response. “If students get on board and it runs through Student Senate and Student Senate votes to request divestment also…that’s a unifying force at Calvin that I think the board would hear,” said Vanden Berg.

“My hope is that the board will come out with a statement either way. And my prayer is that they will divest,” Vanden Berg told Chimes.

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  • K

    Kuyper ScepticMay 11, 2024 at 10:53 am

    This should not be done under cover of darkness. In order that parents can make an informed decision regarding the future of their children’s education, please post a link to the petition and its signers

  • M

    Mary Creamer FeddemaApr 30, 2024 at 3:29 pm

    Thank you. Can alumni sign on?

  • R

    RumpelstiltskinApr 29, 2024 at 1:27 pm

    Calvin Soc professors got it wrong 39 years and continue the tradition today. 30 years ago Apartheid ended and the new Nelson Mandela democratic govt stepped in. But for all the global divestment screaming that took place at the time, South Africa has shown no improvements. Now in 2024, “[t]he official unemployment rate of 32% is the highest in the world, and the rate for young people between the ages of 15 and 24 is higher than 60%. More than 16 million South Africans – 25% of the country – rely on monthly welfare grants for survival. South Africa is still the most unequal country in the world in terms of wealth distribution, according to the World Bank, with race a key factor.”(The Guardian, South Africa marks 30 years since apartheid amid growing discontent., April 27, 2024)

    In the ensuing 30 years of democracy, corruption and violence have flourished in SA, but this does not deter the activists.

    And now Calvin profs side with Hamas and the radical Islamists. Great company! What would a “divested Calvin” look like on the overall picture of the Israel/Palastine canvas? Nothing. The picture would look the same, but a bunch of profs would feel a lot better about themselves. What is clear from 1994 to now, is that whatever side whites are, Calvin profs are sure to pick the other. Acute narcissism is on parade in the halls of Hiemenga.

  • L

    les regnerusApr 22, 2024 at 2:44 pm

    Might as well jump on this band wagon, like you jumped on BLM band
    wagon. Must do what the cool kids do! Maybe you can sit at lunch table with popular kids.