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Letter to the Editor: ‘If my tuition supports oppression, why have I been silent?’

I’m proud to be a Bull. I haven’t said it enough in my three years at this university, but I can say it now, and I want to say it loudly.

On the eve following Martin Luther King (MLK) Jr. Day, Student Government passed a resolution supporting the 2014 petition that called for a university-hosted board to investigate the ethics of investments. 

These investments are made with donations from alumni collected in our name, and we bear responsibility for the direction of that investment. The resolution has yet to be signed by either Senate President Kristen Truong or Student Body President Andy Rodriguez, but I would like to share why I support this resolution:

The university should not be allowed to silence the voice of 10,500 students. Under the tireless direction of students such as Muhammad Imam and Rahma Elmohd, the petition to establish the ethical-investment board gained support from over a third of the student body in 2014. 

Upon presentation to the university administration, the petition was not heard from again, and the months of organization and articulation these students underwent was essentially invalidated. The resolution passed on Tuesday night is a redress of that grievance.

The student body should not be silent on the issue of divestment from Israel. This is the 21st century — an era in which truth is disseminated with incredible verifiability in a matter of moments. The claims that the petition’s organizers propagate may seem bold, but you have the ability to go on YouTube or Facebook and see the oppression of which they speak. 

As a country, we have woken up to the systematic racism apparent in the killings of Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, and Trayvon Martin. Are we ignorant enough to suggest that oppression does not exist beyond the borders of “the land of the free?” Are we not obligated, as students of a university, to seek out truth? The resolution passed on Tuesday night is a reminder of the necessity of that pursuit.

Yet perhaps most personally, I should not allow silence to dominate my interaction with this university. MLK said “our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” If my tuition supports oppression, why have I been silent? 

I’ve seen the videos, I’ve heard the testimony and yet for three years now I have been content with observing the struggle more “personally” felt by fellow students. I feel ashamed for treating “impersonally” the investment made on my behalf into vindictive activity. The resolution passed Tuesday night is a reminder of the personal stake that I, and every single one of us on this campus, has in this contentious issue.

Silence is simply not an option anymore. Thank you, Imam and Elmohd, for reminding me what it means to speak. I have a voice, and I will not disgrace that gift with silence any longer.

Chris Johnson is a junior majoring in political science.