Smith Divestment Sit-in Enters its Second Week

Smith College students have protested the college’s decision not to divest from weapons manufacturers by occupying College Hall, its central administrative building.

Smith Divestment Sit-in Enters its Second Week
The sit-in entered its eighth successive day on Wednesday, April 3. Photo courtesy of Stacey Zhang ’26.

More than 50 Smith College students are entering the eighth day of their occupation of College Hall, Smith’s central administrative building. The protestors have vowed to continue their sit-in until Smith complies with their demand that the college divest from weapons manufacturers profiting from Israel’s war in Gaza.

Smith President Sarah Willie-LeBreton, along with Alex Keller, the interim dean, met with student protestors inside College Hall Saturday afternoon. President Willie-LeBreton said that she cannot accept most of the students’ demands but will relay students’ request for the Board of Trustees’ Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility (ACIR) to hold an emergency meeting.

Besides the college’s divestment from weapons manufacturers, student protestors also demanded immunity from disciplinary actions for occupiers of College Hall and the investigation of what they described as the assault of a student by Jim Gray, associate vice president for facilities and operations at Smith. Gray was shown in a video grabbing and pushing the student as they attempted to collect food and pillows through the window from students outside the building.

The sit-in started last Wednesday in response to the ACIR’s rejection of the divestment proposal presented by Smith Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) last December. The rejection cites the fact that less than one percent of Smith’s endowment is invested in weapon manufacturers and is thus “negligible.”

However, in an Instagram post published by the Smith SJP, a student argued that Palestinian suffering is not “negligible.”

“[The administration] has told us to write petitions and proposals, and we did all of that, and only now they answered and rejected the proposal,” said Manar Alnazer, a Smith SJP organizer. "We've exhausted all the suggestions they gave us, all the obedient ways of protesting and demanding, and now we are trying to escalate things to push them to divest.”

The student sit-in has enjoyed strong support from students and community members. Hundreds of protestors, including Five College students, faculty, and community members have continued to show up daily for rallies in support of the sit-in outside of College Hall.

The community’s support is accompanied by vigils, teach-ins, art builds, and music on the porch of College Hall hosted by Smith SJP. The SJP’s petition, outlining demands presented to President Willie-LeBreton this Saturday, has received more than 1,900 signatures. Community members have also supplied hot meals, daily necessities, and tents for protestors in and outside of College Hall.

The sit-in has gained widespread attention on social media and has been featured in Democracy Now, Inside Higher Ed, and the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

Jennifer Scarlott, a Northampton resident who attended one of the protests, said: “[The student protestors] are absolutely right that private institutions like Smith … are complicit if they invest in companies that are supplying the genocide in Gaza. I couldn’t support these students more strongly, and I’m completely inspired by their brilliance, their courage, and their steadfastness.”