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RISD will not sever ties with Textron following occupation, President Crystal Williams announces

Williams halts advocacy for student demands until demonstrators end building occupation

The announcement follows a six-hour Monday evening negotiations meeting with student organizers affiliated with RISD Students for Justice in Palestine during a 22-person occupation at 20 Washington Place, better known as Prov-Wash.
The announcement follows a six-hour Monday evening negotiations meeting with student organizers affiliated with RISD Students for Justice in Palestine during a 22-person occupation at 20 Washington Place, better known as Prov-Wash.

RISD President Crystal Williams released information regarding the college鈥檚 investment portfolio and responded to student protestors鈥 demands in a Tuesday evening email sent to students and faculty.campus-wide email.

The announcement follows a six-hour Monday evening negotiations meeting with student organizers affiliated with RISD Students for Justice in Palestine during a 22-person occupation at 20 Washington Place, better known as Prov-Wash. Students yesterday barricaded themselves in the second floor of Prov-Wash, an administrative building which hosts Williams鈥檚 office.

RJSP representatives did not respond to The Herald鈥檚 request for comment by press time.

In a Monday press release, RSJP wrote that they would not leave the building until Williams met demands for fiscal transparency around investments, 鈥渉olistic鈥 divestment from groups involved with 鈥渟ustaining Israel Apartheid,鈥 establishing a student oversight committee on investments, and publicly condemning Israel鈥檚 actions in Gaza as a genocide, The Herald previously reported.

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RISD administration gave the students until 8 a.m. Tuesday to clear the occupation, The Herald previously reported. Students continued to stay in the building past this deadline. RISD Spokesperson Jaime Marlard wrote in an email to The Herald that classes scheduled to take place in this space were relocated. 

In her email, Williams noted that while she has 鈥渂een in conversation with members of RISD's Board of Trustees regarding RSJP demands,鈥 she will not continue to advocate for student protestors until 鈥淩JSP students vacate academic spaces and agree to not disrupt Commencement.鈥

Williams shared that RISD administration 鈥渞eceived an email from the students occupying the second floor of 20 Washington Place preemptively rejecting any offer from us鈥 at 3:30 p.m. today. 鈥淭his follows the national playbook from Students for Justice in Palestine and is disappointing,鈥 Williams continued.

In a the next day, RSJP wrote that they were not aware of plans by the RISD administration to make 鈥渁nother offer in the de-occupation.鈥 Organizers were also unaware of the President鈥檚 intentions to meet with the RISD Board of Trustees Investment Committee. 

RSJP alleged that Williams and Ghadessi employed 鈥渆xtensive stall tactics and gaslighting鈥 throughout their negotiations, including 鈥渃alling the second half of the meeting unproductive and stating that the 4 newly-joined students had wasted the efforts鈥 of earlier negotiators. 

鈥淲e do not organize through a 鈥榩laybook,鈥欌 added RSJP. 鈥淥ur actions are international and specific to RISD.鈥

At 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, RSJP released an 鈥渙pen letter鈥 in response to proposals made by Williams and RISD Provost Touba Ghadessi. In the letter, they detailed their rejection of terms they say Williams and Ghadessi verbally suggested during negotiations. 

Students have demanded RISD to suspend 鈥渁ll funding from the Rayon Foundation Trust,鈥 a trust fund donated to the school in 1944 by Atlantic Rayon founder Royal Little. Atlantic Rayon would later become Textron; the Israeli Air Force arsenal contains aircraft manufactured by Textron subsidiaries Bell and Beechcraft.

Williams argued that suspending all funding from the Rayon Foundation Trust 鈥渨ould significantly negatively impact the academic program and student financial aid.鈥 Williams added that the money in the trust is not related to the 鈥渃urrent entity named Textron.鈥 

Williams rejected protesters鈥 demand that RISD refuse future partnerships with Textron stating that 鈥渋n taking the long view, we cannot support this request.鈥

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RSJP also demanded that RISD disaffiliate from AirBnB, a vacation rental company co-founded by RISD alumni Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia. Williams wrote that RISD is 鈥減roud鈥 of the founders, but that the school has no business ties with the company. Gebbia, who has served on RISD鈥檚 Board for 12 years, is scheduled to step down at the end of the year, Williams added.

RSJP sought RISD disaffiliation from Israeli universities and study abroad programs. Williams wrote that the college鈥檚 affiliation with Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design ended in 2018, but that 鈥渨e will not promise to refrain from future partnerships or study abroad programs in any country.鈥

In terms of the protesters鈥 demand that Williams publicly condemn Israel鈥檚 actions in Gaza and call for a ceasefire, Williams wrote 鈥淚 have foresworn making public statements鈥 and said she will share her reasoning for that policy 鈥渁t some future point.鈥

Addressing students鈥 demands for fiscal transparency, Williams also shared information regarding the school鈥檚 $420 million endowment of 鈥渞estricted and unrestricted funds.鈥 

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According to Williams, RISD has engaged as the Outsourced Chief Investment Office for the school鈥檚 endowment. The school鈥檚 investment portfolio is 鈥渁 multi-asset, diversified portfolio invested in public and private managers and investments,鈥 Williams explained.

As of March 31, 2024, GEM reports that RISD holds no direct investments in the aerospace and defense industry, Williams wrote. She noted that the portfolio holds 鈥渋ndirect exposure through third-party managers in pooled funds,鈥 with 1.2% of the endowment invested indirectly in seven aerospace and defense companies 鈥 two of which receive over 50% of their revenue from defense. 

Williams also highlighted indirect exposure to the aerospace and defense industry via the endowment鈥檚 private investments. GEM estimates that RISD鈥檚 endowment experiences 0.8% exposure to 鈥減rivate companies that operate in the aerospace and defense industry鈥 as of December 2023, according to Williams. She added that the endowment also has 1.2% indirect exposure to . 

While RSJP sought increased 鈥渟tudent oversight鈥 of the endowment, Williams wrote that 鈥渨e cannot cede oversight to students, nor would it be responsible to do so.鈥 She proposed 鈥渢o host an annual presentation and conversation with Senior Vice President David Rosati about RISD's finances and investments鈥 and opened the door to student proposals of 鈥渙ther means of engagement.鈥

Williams added that two Cabinet members are currently developing a 鈥淲orld Events toolkit鈥 so that 鈥渨hen world events happen, members of our community can proudly talk about how RISD showed up in to support students, staff, and faculty.鈥 Williams wrote that the toolkit should be completed by 鈥渆arly summer.鈥

鈥淎 meeting once a year is not enough and pointless,鈥 RSJP wrote in reference to William鈥檚 alternative proposal to student oversight. They emphasized their demand for 鈥渁 student oversight committee that helps make advisory recommendations.鈥

RSJP also 鈥渄id not request a Worlds Events toolkit,鈥 stating that it would not 鈥渃onstitute towards meeting (their) demands,鈥 the group said. 鈥淭he genocide is escalating rapidly. We do not have time.鈥


Tom Li

Tom Li is a Metro Editor covering the Health & Environment and Development & Infrastructure beats. He is from Pleasanton, California, and is concentrating in Economics and International & Public Affairs. He is an avid RIPTA passenger and enjoys taking (and criticizing) personality tests in his free time.


Avani Ghosh

Avani Ghosh is a Metro Editor covering politics & justice and community & activism. She is a sophomore from Ohio studying Health & Human Biology and International & Public Affairs. She is an avid earl grey enthusiast and can be found making tea in her free time.


Ciara Meyer

Ciara Meyer is a Senior Staff Writer covering the Beyond Brown beat. She is from Saratoga Springs, New York and plans on concentrating in Statistics and English nonfiction. In her free time, she loves scrapbooking and building lego flowers.


Megan Chan

Megan is a Senior Staff Writer covering community and activism in Providence. Born and raised in Hong Kong, she spends her free time drinking coffee and wishing she was Meg Ryan in a Nora Ephron movie.



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