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2 Members of HLS Student Government Resign After Resolution to Divest From ‘Illegal Israeli Settlements’

Two Harvard Law School 1L representatives resigned from the Student Government following a resolutions passed with an anonymous vote calling on Harvard to divest from Israel.
Two Harvard Law School 1L representatives resigned from the Student Government following a resolutions passed with an anonymous vote calling on Harvard to divest from Israel. By Julian J. Giordano
By S. Mac Healey and Saketh Sundar, Crimson Staff Writers

Updated: Sunday, March 31 at 1:07 p.m.

Two members of the Harvard Law School Student Government resigned Friday morning after the group passed a resolution calling on the Harvard Management Company to divest from Israel.

The resolution passed 12-4 with 3 abstentions after the student government passed a motion to make voting anonymous. Members had until 8 a.m. Friday to cast their vote.

Per the passed resolution, the HLS Student Government “formally calls upon HMC to divest completely from weapons manufacturers, firms, academic programs, corporations, and all other institutions that aid the ongoing illegal occupation of Palestine and the genocide of Palestinians.”

It further “calls upon all institutions and organizations within the Harvard community to divest” from the same.

But the group did not fully survive the passage of the resolution: two members of the HLS student government, Regina De Nigris and Cameron Adkins, resigned Friday morning.

In their resignation letter obtained by The Crimson, the two wrote that they stepped down because they “strongly disagree with the resolution being considered by the Student Government.”

De Nigris and Adkins released the letter on Thursday, effective after voting had closed on the resolution.

In the resolution, the HLS Student Government pointed to Harvard’s investment of “nearly $200 million in companies tied to the Israeli military and illegal Israeli settlements in Palestine” as well as HMC’s previous divestment from South African apartheid in 1986 and the tobacco industry in 1990.

The resolution — which marked the first passed by the student government in the 2024-2025 academic year — also cited similar divestment resolutions from peer universities such as Brown, Columbia, Stanford, and the University of California, Berkeley.

A spokesperson for the Harvard Management Company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

University spokesperson Jason A. Newton wrote in a statement Friday afternoon that “Harvard leadership has made clear that it opposes calls for a policy of boycotting Israel and its academic institutions,” citing former University President Lawrence S. Bacow’s response to The Crimson Editorial Board’s 2022 endorsement of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement.

In De Nigris and Adkins’ resignation letter, addressed to the “Harvard Law School Student Government and Student Body,” they claimed that an anonymity motion passed at a March 26 meeting was in violation of a provision of the Student Government Constitution, stating that “all… votes of the Student Council shall be held in open session and minutes shall be made public.”

The duo, both 1L representatives, also said the anonymous vote was in violation of the Student Government bylaws, stating that “the only methods of voting on resolution shall be by roll call or acclamation.”

According to a public copy of the meeting’s minutes, Student Council members passed a motion “to amend the bylaws to allow the Student Council to consider and vote on this resolution via a closed Google Form rather than via a list of in-person roll call” over concerns about harassment and doxxing with 12 votes out of 14 eligible members.

In addition, De Nigris and Adkins claimed that the resolution further violated the bylaws’ “requirements for a resolution to be considered by the Student Council in the first place,” citing a section describing how the body may take up a resolution.

“Any student may author a resolution, but to be considered by the Student Council, the author must (1) pass the resolution in a committee of Student Government, or (2) obtain the support of an absolute majority of the Student Council, and submit the list of supporters to a Student Body Co-President no later than twelve (12) hours before the meeting,” the bylaws state.

De Nigris and Adkins added that the resolution was drafted “without meaningful opportunity for interested students to provide input or express their potential concerns.”

Agrawal wrote in a statement on Sunday following this article’s publication that a “few students who disagreed with the substance of the resolution attempted to block its passage on procedural grounds, after they realized that the resolution had the support of an overwhelming majority of the Student Council and student body.”

“In the interest of transparency, the entire Student Government and the wider student body discussed their concerns in two separate meetings,” he added. “A majority of the Student Council disagreed with their claims and voted that procedure was properly adhered to, upholding long standing interpretations of the Constitution and bylaws.”

With the Friday morning vote, the HLS Student Government joins a wave of protest on Harvard’s campus. Student groups have held joint rallies and demonstrations to call for the University’s financial divestment from Israel.

The resolution was first proposed in a March 20 email sent by HLS student body co-presidents Swap Agrawal and Tolu Alegbeleye.

In the email obtained by The Crimson, Agrawal and Alegbeleye wrote that they were answering “calls upon Student Government and Harvard as an institution to divest from Israeli military occupation, apartheid, and genocide” and intended to draft and introduce the resolution.

Agrawal and Alegbeleye then described the gravity of the resolution’s material and called for an emergency representative meeting, during which attendees would discuss the draft and make edits.

Held on March 26, the emergency meeting — called in addition to the Student Government’s planned Thursday meeting, the last of their tenure — included discussion of the resolution’s material and language, such as concerns that “the language is overbroad.”

A motion to table the resolution until the next student government was then proposed but failed.

In addition to the secret ballot procedure for Friday’s resolution, the Student Government has also removed the names and email addresses of their current members from their website.

Agrawal — the author of the resolution — wrote in a statement to The Crimson that he introduced the resolution in response to demands from numerous HLS students.

“Many law students hoped that the situation in Gaza would improve,” he wrote. “As Israel has continued to disregard these measures, students felt strongly that this was necessary to put pressure on things to change.”

Speaking to the specifics of the resolution’s language, Agrawal noted that “the resolution does not define aid to genocide.”

“In the context of the endowment, that aid includes funding for companies that are assisting the illegal occupation of Palestine, as determined by the UN Commissioner for Human Rights, and the ongoing genocide of Palestinians,” he wrote.

De Nigris and Adkins also criticized Agrawal and Alegbeleye’s decision to hold the vote after the new student government had already been elected and announced on Thursday.

“The resolution has been pushed through at the last possible minute to avoid running up against the end of this Student Government’s term,” they wrote, “and, perhaps, to insulate the Student Government from receiving contrary input.”

Agrawal and Alegbeleye had announced the new student government leadership for the 2023-2024 academic year in a statement Thursday.

Answering criticisms over the timing of the resolution, Agrawal wrote that “the situation is urgent, and we feel compelled to act now.” Agrawal did not explain why a resolution had not been introduced since the Israel-Hamas war began in October.

Agrawal said the Student Government widely circulated the resolution to solicit feedback.

“Based on the emails I have received, a strong majority of students believe strongly in this resolution,” he wrote in a statement to The Crimson, “though some students have been calling for representatives to vote no.”

De Nigris and Adkins wrote in their resignation letter that “we voiced our disagreement to the Student Government at every opportunity.”

“Our concerns, however, were pushed aside,” they added.

Hours after the vote was announced, Harvard Law School Justice for Palestine called the resoluion “a feat of student organizing.”

HLS’s Jewish Law Students Association also issued a statement, but in strong opposition to the resolution.

“As Jewish leaders, we denounce a resolution singling out the only Jewish state — this student government does not represent us nor many of the hundreds we represent,” they wrote.

Correction: March 31, 2024

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the motion to make voting anonymous was unprecedented. In fact, the HLS Student Government has conducted other votes anonymously.

—Staff writer S. Mac Healey can be reached at mac.healey@thecrimson.com. Follow him on X @MacHealey.

—Staff writer Saketh Sundar can be reached at saketh.sundar@thecrimson.com. Follow him on X @saketh_sundar.

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