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‘There has to be consensus’: Eisgruber dismisses student Israel divest petition

Princeton Israeli Apartheid Divest Coalition (PIAD) demonstrators holding up signs at the Feb. 19 CPUC meeting.
Rodolfo Arzaga / The Daily Princetonian

At Monday’s meeting of the Council of the Princeton University Community (CPUC), President Christopher Eisgruber ’83 said the University would not take action on a student petition calling for divestment from companies associated with “Israel’s ongoing military campaign, occupation, and apartheid policies” until campus consensus on the issue has been reached.

“Under the standards of the university, there has to be consensus,” Eisgruber said in a response to a question about divestment. “There’s the opposite of that on issues involving politics in the Middle East. There’s sharp disagreement.”


Eisgruber also took issue with “divestment as a solution,” he said, in a response to another question.

“At the end of the day, when you’re investing, one person is selling an investment, another person is buying the investment,” he said. “What [the University] can do best is not taking stands on contested issues. What it can do best is to sponsor the teaching and research that make a difference and that we are uniquely qualified to do.”

During the meeting, nearly 30 students with the Princeton Israeli Apartheid Divest Coalition (PIAD), the group spearheading the petition, intermittently and silently held up signs with a green thumbs up or a red thumbs down in response to questions from the student body and Eisgruber’s answers. Other students were present at the meeting in opposition to the petition, some wearing shirts reading“Princeton stands with Israel.”

In a written statement to The Daily Princetonian, PIAD said that Eisgruber’s “refusal to take measures to either discern student opinion or act based on a widespread international moral consensus is taking a stance on this ‘contentious’ issue.”

“His insistence on ‘consensus’ needed to bring the issue of divestment to the table is a disingenuous reading of CPUC’s charter,” PIAD added.

The CPUC is composed of students, faculty, staff, and alumni representatives and meets six times per year. The council includes the Resources Committee, which considers concerns about the University’s endowment, including those that garner “considerable, thoughtful and sustained campus interest.” 


Guidelines adopted by the Board of Trustees in 1997 state that the Resources Committee should determine if campus consensus is possible on issues regarding the University’s investments before recommending the issue be examined further. In 2014, the committee declined to consider divestment related to companies associated with Israel’s occupation of the West Bank following a petition from faculty members, citing a lack of campus consensus. The final say on the University’s investment matters lies with the Board of Trustees.

Student activists launched the current petition calling for the University to divest its endowment from companies with ties to Israel in December. The petition also calls on the University to disassociate from Israeli universities and to cultivate ties with Palestinian academic institutions.

Students also pressed Eisgruber about institutional neutrality. Ellen Li ’24, an organizer for Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), noted in her question that Eisgruber issued a statement condemning Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks, but “avoided mention of Israel’s ensuing genocide” in his annual letter to the community.

In January, Li published a column in the ‘Prince’ responding to Eisgruber’s State of the University letter. 

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“I spoke out because I thought that the particular terrorist incident that took place there was one of the special historical significance and cruelty and I think that that warranted a statement of a rare kind,” Eisgruber responded.

Another student asked about the University’s protections for pro-Palestinian speech, including no-contact orders (NCOs). In January, in response to a letter from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), the University narrowed the circumstances for which NCOs can be obtained.

“I agree that it’s a very serious concern,” Eisgruber said regarding the risks of students being doxxed. “But on the other hand, there are limits to what it is that we can do around it. These no-contact orders … did not, could not, and should not have prevented people from doing things like covering protests.”

The letter from the ADL and FIRE argued NCOs were used to “censor student journalists,” citing two incidents involving The Princeton Tory’s reporting on Pro-Palestinian activities.

More recent protests in support of Palestine have largely focused on the petition to divest from companies associated with Israel's "ongoing military campaign, occupation, and apartheid policies." At the time of publication, the petition, which was released in December has garnered 546 signatures from individuals. Undergraduates and graduate students represented relatively equal numbers of signatures, at 99 and 111 respectively. A majority of signatures, 51.7 percent, came from undergraduate alumni of the University.

In September 2022, the University divested its endowment from all publicly-traded fossil fuel companies and dissociated from 90 fossil fuel companies after a decade of student activism. The most recent open letter calling for full fossil fuel divestment, first circulated in 2020, currently has over 3,000 signatures.

The CPUC demonstration by pro-Palestinian activists follows a die-in on Wednesday in front of Firestone Library to draw awareness to Israel’s planned military offense in Rafah, a city in the south of Gaza. More than 40 students spent nearly an hour on a cold afternoon sitting or lying in silence, some with signs about Rafah being “the last place of refuge in Gaza” or calling on Princeton to divest. 

The original die-in was rescheduled due to the snow. Li gave the only speech at the end of the die-in.

“We knew this was genocide,” Li said, referring to the Israeli military’s October evacuation order for 1.1 million people in North Gaza to flee south in 24 hours. “And now we see their final solution, because Israel has now been bombing the final safe, supposedly safe, zone in Gaza, where civilians were told they would be safe, and now they have nowhere left to run.”

Li notably invoked “final solution,” a term tied to the plan to eliminate Jewish people during the Holocaust. She defended the remark in an interview with the ‘Prince’ after the rally. 

“The reason we use the word ‘final solution’ is because we [Students for Justice in Palestine] are often accused of … calling for a genocide of Jewish people, when it’s actually the State of Israel that is committing a genocide of the Palestinians. It’s a reversal,” Li said in an interview with the ‘Prince’ after the die-in.

The CPUC meeting took place in the Multipurpose Room on the B level of Frist Campus Center. Upstairs, many students studying were unaware that the meeting was even happening.

“I think the University stance is appropriate,” Brandon Ambetsa ’25 said regarding the standard for campus consensus for pursuing divestment. “But I’m not sure whether the board … would actually go to that length [of divestment] because you’re opening yourself to a lot of scrutiny.”

“I feel like this issue is so split across campus that making one sort of decision might be marginalizing a huge segment of the community,” said Harish Krishnakumar ’27. “It’s a pretty complicated issue.”

At the end of the CPUC meeting, pro-Palestinian students were insistent on seeing the petition for divestment through, chanting “We will not rest until divest.”

Miriam Waldvogel is an associate News editor for the ‘Prince.’

Please send corrections to corrections[at]

Editor’s note: this piece has been updated to reflect the presence of students opposing the petition at the meeting, and to include University policy about criteria for considering divestment.

Correction: a previous version of this piece incorrectly stated that the CPUC meets once a month, when it actually meets six times each year.