Lessons from the Divestment Debate

Emma Dunn

On April 12, the Minnesota Student Association passed an amended resolution that asked the University to make socially responsible investments and improve financial transparency. The resolution passed because, as amended, it achieved these goals without dividing the campus or marginalizing one particular group of students. After months of division on campus caused by the divestment campaign, there are crucial lessons to take away from this process.
If we hope to leave this university as engaged citizens and the next generation of leaders, we must always think critically and demonstrate empathy and respect toward those who disagree with us. As members of a university community, 
freedom of speech should not be treated simply as a right to express our own opinion but also as an obligation to listen to others express their opinions.
I was shocked by the lack of listening and empathy, in addition to discriminatory accusations and comments, during a discussion that was supposedly about human rights. Disagreement should never come at the expense of selectively discounting the collective and individual perspectives of fellow students. As a campus community, we need to do a better job of seeking compromise, and when opportunities to collaborate present themselves, we should take them.
The pro-divestment campaign sought to exclude the voices of the vast majority of Jewish students and those of President Kaler and state legislators, who are all important stakeholders in a healthy campus climate. While we should question and are 
free to disagree with them, discounting their perspectives is wrong, divisive and goes against the spirit of academic 
freedom.
 
The second half of this letter will appear next week.