Two-thirds of Faculty Vote in Favor of Divestment Resolution

The nonbinding resolution calls for the college to divest from weapons companies that support Israel’s war in Gaza. The vote came a week after the AAS passed a similar resolution calling for divestment from a larger set of corporations.

Two-thirds of Faculty Vote in Favor of Divestment Resolution
Protestors gather in the lobby of Converse Hall before the meeting began on Friday. Photo courtesy of Kei Lim ’25.

On Friday, May 3, Amherst College faculty approved a motion calling the Board of Trustees to “identify and divest from corporations that supply military equipment used in the present campaign in Gaza” by a vote of 123 to 69 in a special faculty meeting.

The motion was brought forth by a group of 22 faculty members, and in the resulting meeting, faculty engaged in two hours of discussion, followed by a vote.

In a May 6 email to the campus community, President Michael Elliott acknowledged the faculty vote and the recent passage of a similar resolution by the Association of Amherst Students (AAS). He said that the Board of Trustees would “discuss this topic and these specific resolutions during its May meeting.”

“My motivation for being one of the faculty that called the meeting is just so that we can actually find out … whether or not there is a consensus around this issue, rather than assuming there isn’t,” said Associate Professor of Spanish and English and Faculty Equity and Inclusion Officer Sony Coráñez Bolton prior to the meeting.

The day before the faculty meeting, community members rallied on the first-year quad in solidarity with Gaza, urging the faculty to vote to divest. The rally, organized by Amherst for Palestine, featured chants, dance and music performances, and student and faculty speeches. Attendees painted signs that were posted on the doors of the Cole Assembly Room of Converse Hall where the faculty discussion took place the next day.

Attendees painted signs at the rally in solidarity with Palestine the day before the faculty divestment vote. Photo courtesy of Kei Lim ’25.

On the day of the vote, students packed the lobby and stairs of Converse ahead of the meeting, chanting and holding signs reading “FREE PALESTINE,” “DIVEST NOW,” and “WHAT DID YOU DO WHEN YOU WITNESSED GENOCIDE.” As faculty entered the hall, students handed them sheets with student statements supporting divestment.

In the past few weeks, many have called on the Board of Trustees to divest — including the Association of Amherst Students, The Student’s editorial board, and alumni in a letter with nearly 500 signatures. But these calls have not been completely uncontested.

“Motions are designed to invite reflection and discussion,” wrote Professor of Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought Lawrence Douglas in a leaked letter delivered before the meeting to the head of the Faculty Executive Committee in which he argued for the motion to be tabled. “What does this motion invite us to discuss? … Whether the college should profit from companies that underwrite acts of atrocity? Given the way that the motion is framed, it allows for only one answer.”

Before the discussion began, faculty agreed that the meeting should be kept private out of concern for students.

Knowledge of a professor’s arguments might “affect a student’s ability to learn from faculty and maintain good working relationships with them,” said Visiting Assistant Professor of History Ben Wurgaft. “[After the vote,] President Elliott said, … ‘one thing I have in reserve to say is that all the students are still your students.’ And it was a kind of a call for unity of intention.”

While students moved to the green outside Converse after the meeting began, they gathered in the lobby again minutes before the vote’s results.

Cheers erupted from the crowd upon the announcement of the vote’s passing, and continued as faculty exited the Cole Assembly Room.

“I woke up this morning feeling truly terrified,” said a member of the class of 2027. “I think this is the most grateful I’ve felt in weeks.”

After the room cleared out, students marched to the first-year quad, sharing speeches celebrating the outcome of the faculty vote but emphasizing that the struggle was far from over.

After the vote, students marched to the first-year quad and gave speeches celebrating the outcome. Photo courtesy of Kei Lim ’25.

“As scholars of all ages, we see the truth of the massacre unfolding. And we loudly voice with intellectual and moral clarity that we renounce any and all of Amherst College’s financial ties to Israel’s military operation,” said a senior LJST major. “I am so proud to stand with you in demonstrating with more strength than ever before, that the board must divest.”

Faculty expressed appreciation for the work of students in making the vote possible.

“I’ve been at the college for 20 years, and this vote was an incredible, historic moment,” said Professor of Anthropology Chris Dole. “And I think it was not possible without the amazing work of students. Tireless, relentless work of reaching out and organizing and coordinating with faculty. And I just couldn’t be happier.”

“The college community has shown that we care deeply about Israel’s genocide of Palestinians,” wrote Amherst for Palestine organizers in a message to The Student, but “the Board of Trustees and the college administration have exhibited an astonishing willingness to disregard this while simultaneously touting values of democracy. … We will keep organizing, educating, showing up, and protesting until the college divests. We are not going away anytime soon.”