Practical Steps to Divestment within the Student Government

By Sam O’Hana

By June of 2024, we reach the end not only of the academic year, but also the fiscal year, which begins July 1st and heralds a fresh page in the GC’s financial record keeping. The auditors from CUNY central usually descend around this time and examine the DGSC’s spending to make sure we are compliant with best practices and CUNY policy. We even have to hand over $5,000 of our own money to have our transactions examined by them. Yet a moral audit of our spending can be done internally, and highlights work yet to be done.

The DGSC, like all student governments at CUNY, is funded by the “student activity fee.” At the Graduate Center this means all students pay just over $40 per semester––one of the lowest in the CUNY system––for extracurricular activities, improving services to students, and enhancing the GC in general. The DGSC buys goods and services from many third-party vendors, some of which are very large corporations that inevitably get caught up in morally gray––or explicitly unethical––business practices.

As the current and outgoing Co-Chair for Business at the DGSC, I’ll list here our major third-party vendors and the feasibility of divesting from them to more ethical vendors, with a particular view to divesting from businesses that are complicit in the ongoing genocide in Gaza, and with anti-union practices.

Google Workspace

This is a tough one. Google is known for harvesting its users’ data to train its AI models, for refusing to bargain with its unionized workers, and for providing $1.22bn worth of cloud services to the Israeli military. Google Workspace––Gmail, Google Drive, Google Forms, Docs, and Sheets––is at the heart of our operations for email, storage, document collaboration, and calendars. It’s universally recognized by students and has long been in use at the DGSC. To move away from it would require a mass migration of data to our personal server, and setting up shared directories using a dedicated platform, possibly in conjunction with an open-source document collaboration tool like OnlyOffice.


The DGSC’s annual funds––about $300,000 in any year––are registered in an account called GRD03 by the GC’s Business Office, but the money is actually deposited with a checking and an investment account at Citibank, which has a record suppressing union activity in its Latin American operations, and describe themselves as “boasting the largest presence of any foreign financial institution in Israel.” A solid––but not perfect––alternative would be Amalgamated Bank, known for its pro-labor stances and relatively ethical investment record. Closing the Citibank account and transferring funds to Amalgamated could well be possible with enough close collaboration with Business Office staff.


Easily one of the best-recognized brands in domain name hosting, GoDaddy is the domain registrar for all of the DGSC’s domains:,,, and The company has a mixed record: they took down a website they deemed to promote gun violence in the wake of the Jan 6th riot at the US Capitol, as well as one encouraging whistleblowing against those breaking the anti-abortion legislation known as the Texas Heartbeat Act. However, they also offered fake $650 bonuses to their employees during the COVID-19 pandemic to test their phishing scam detection skills, and host, a site that profiles and doxxes academics critical of Israel and US foreign policy. A reasonable alternative would be Gandi, a French domain name registration service that appears to be without a record of unethical activity, and advocates for both open-source software as well as Creative Commons designations.

Other Web-Related Vendors

The DGSC’s main website is built with Drupal, and our free-to-use site-building platform OpenCUNY is built with WordPress. Both are free, open-source software platforms with a good reputation and although sites of all kinds use Drupal and WordPress as their content management systems, the DGSC pays nothing for these services. The development of the DGSC site itself, and the server that hosts our data, is done by two small independent firms respectively: Avenue Web Media, and Reclaim Hosting, the latter founded by a former English doctoral student from the Graduate Center. Our voting software, eBallot, appears not to be on any divestment lists, although some of its web infrastructure is hosted on Amazon Web Services.


Another tough one. The DGSC uses Amazon to buy various supplies for program lounges, such as lamps, chalk, and office supplies, though it is not a major vendor to the DGSC since most supplies are provided––as far as I know––by the GC through other institutional vendors. In any case, convenience keeps most customers coming back to Amazon and the DGSC is no different. The list of reasons to avoid Amazon is long––it should suffice here to note that its labor practices would be enough to put Upton Sinclair in cardiac arrest, and its monopoly status in the US economy is––in Lina Khan’s opinion at least––worthy of intense, enforcement-backed scrutiny. Students can always buy supplies from local vendors and seek reimbursement, but for expensive, bulky, or hard-to-get items, the DGSC would need to set up a credit-and-invoice relationship with a series of smaller companies.


The good news is that Grubhub does not appear to be on any divestment lists, however, it is fairly active in lobbying against wage legislation for food delivery workers. If you use the DGSC’s Grubhub account, try to tip well, and look out for independent businesses like Omar’s Mediterranean and Tina’s Cuban. The GC’s new campus caterer Aladdin Campus Dining is also a great choice for cost-effective catering that does not appear to be tangled up in any ethical issues at the time of writing.

The same also goes for 4imprint, the company the DGSC buys its merchandise from, CDW LLC, the IT company that the DGSC bought its Meeting Owl webcam from, and ZenBooth, the vendor for the soundproof booths soon to be installed in the library and on the 5th floor.

Finally, no list of vendors to the DGSC would be complete without mentioning the champion laureates of in-house production, the Graphic Arts Department housed in the basement (Z level!) of the Graduate Center. For exceptionally reasonable prices and with no ethical concerns, you can print posters, books, and magazines to pick up usually within a week’s turnaround time. The Advocate itself is printed by Christian and his team at Graphic Arts and we will continue to be grateful for their longstanding and reliable service.

As most students are aware, it is often the larger corporations that can offer better value for money, more convenience, and more variety. Unfortunately, they are also involved in overlapping ethical issues directly contrary to the values of a public institution like CUNY. Divesting from companies with anticompetitive labor practices, an indifference to settler colonial violence, and a disregard for open-source software will continue to take many hours of administrative work, often done quietly in DGSC offices where the technical details are ironed out collaboratively between student leaders, the Business Office, and our third-party vendors, both current and prospective.

Sam O’Hana is a 5th year in the English program and the outgoing Co-Chair for Business at the DGSC.

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