UPDATED: Dec. 18, 2014, at 6:01 p.m.
Following a report that Harvard University Dining Services had suspended purchases of soda water machines from an Israeli company associated with an international settlement dispute, University President Drew G. Faust has requested an investigation into the decision, according to Provost Alan M. Garber ’76.
Last spring, HUDS stopped purchasing SodaStream water machines following complaints from members of the Harvard College Palestine Solidarity Committee and the Harvard Islamic Society, who raised concerns to administrators that the appliances could offend Palestinian students. The company’s main factory is currently located in the West Bank, a site of conflict over land ownership between Israel and Palestine. The company recently announced plans to move the factory to another location.
“Harvard University's procurement decisions should not and will not be driven by individuals' views of highly contested matters of political controversy,” Garber wrote in an emailed statement in response to the report of the decision shortly after 11 p.m. Wednesday. “If this policy is not currently known or understood in some parts of the University, that will be rectified now."
Garber wrote that neither he nor Faust was aware of the decision and the circumstances surrounding it until The Crimson reported the details late Tuesday evening.
Although she did not return a request for comment by early Thursday afternoon, HUDS spokesperson Crista Martin previously confirmed that the dining service agreed to remove SodaStream labels from machines it had already purchased and buy future appliances from other companies after the students raised their complaints in meetings with administrators.
Reached early Thursday morning, University spokesperson Jeff Neal declined to clarify whether or not the University considers the HUDS decision a policy violation.
Former University President Lawrence H. Summers, however, said in an interview early Thursday that the decision, as reported, “is entirely inconsistent with the University's longstanding policy of not politicizing its procurement and divestment decisions.”
Several student activists responded to Garber’s statement with comments of their own on Thursday. Alexander M. Abbasi, a student at Harvard Divinity School and a member of the Palestine Solidarity Committee, reiterated criticism of SodaStream in an emailed statement early Thursday morning, emphasizing that student activists “took the necessary civil measures to be in touch” with relevant administrators to voice their concerns.
“We are thankful to the Harvard administration who worked with us, and took the necessary civil measures to hear the concerns of Palestinian and other Harvard students,” he wrote.
Leaders of several Jewish and pro-Israel student organizations, meanwhile, expressed their support for the investigation into the decision to suspend the SodaStream purchases in a joint statement Thursday.
“We regret that neither we nor the greater student body were included in the conversation. We stand strongly against efforts to boycott and delegitimize the State of Israel,” reads the statement, signed by Harvard Hillel President Samuel M. Fisher ’15, Harvard Students for Israel President and Vice President Yoav Shaked '17 and Moriya Blumenfeld '16, and Israel Public Affairs Committee at Harvard College President Edyt J. Dickstein '17. Dickstein is also a Crimson editorial writer.
—Check TheCrimson.com for updates.
—Staff writer Kamara A. Swaby contributed to the reporting of this story.
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