Harvard students protest soda fountains, claim dispensers are 'microaggression'

Harvard’s president is investigating the dining hall’s suspension of SodaStream.

The president only learned of the suspension, after Harvard’s student newspaper published an article about it.

Student activists claimed the Israeli soda dispensers were “microaggressions” against supporters of Palestine.

The president of Harvard University is investigating the removal of soda dispensers from the school’s dining halls after student activists claimed the dispenser's ties to Israel “microaggress”  Palestine.

Harvard’s Undergraduate Dining Services (HUDS) agreed to suspend business on Tuesday with SodaStream, a carbonated water company based in Southern Israel. According to HUDS spokesperson Crista Martin, faculty had removed labels from the machines and purchased new ones as of Thursday afternoon, without permission from Harvard President Drew G. Faust.

“Harvard University’s procurement decisions should not and will not be driven by individuals’ views of highly contested matters of political controversy,” wrote Provost Alan Garber in a statement, backing Faust’s investigation. “If this policy is not currently known or understood in some parts of the University, that will be rectified now.”

Faust and Garber both claim they were not aware of suspension efforts until The Crimson initially published the story on Tuesday. However, their disapproval was met with resistance from student activists who claimed they “took the necessary civil measures to hear the concerns of Palestinian and other Harvard students.”

“These machines can be seen as a microaggression to Palestinian students and their families and like the [u]niversity doesn’t care about Palestinian human rights,” Rachel J. Sandalow-Ash, a member of the Harvard College Progressive Jewish Alliance, told The Crimson.

In April, the Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC) and the Harvard Islamic Society (HIS) met with Harvard officials, “citing discomfort with the machines and the potential of the machines to offend those affected by the Israel-Palestine conflict.”

Former Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers affirms HUDS’ decision to suspend business with the company is a clear violation of university policies.

“[The decision] is entirely inconsistent with the [u]niversity's longstanding policy of not politicizing its procurement and divestment decisions,” Summer told The Crimson.

In addition, supporters of Israel are touting their solace for Faust’s investigation in the suspension.

“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,” read a statement in The Crimson, drafted by pro-Israel students.

SodaStream was previously manufactured out of the West Bank—the disputed area between Israel and Palestine. In October the company announced it would be relocating its main factory to Southern Israel which sparked controversy.

Efforts to dismantle expenditures on Israeli products have appeared before in higher education. Wesleyan University briefly removed Sabra Hummus from its cafeteria after student activists protested the product for several months.

Harvard did not respond to Campus Reform's request for comment in time for publication. 

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