Fourth Estate/Ali Ali,
On March 14, ‘$26 mill to Israel. SHAME!’ was written outside the entrance to Merten Hall, where SJP Representatives were inside giving their presentation to the Student Senate. GMU Coalition for Palestine was also outside the building on Merten Lawn hosting their student sit-in to, “demand that George Mason University divest from military contractors and all institutions funding the ongoing occupation in Palestine.” They were on day 25 of their sit-in.

A transcript on March 14 between Fourth Estate reporters and the SJP Mason President regarding an unverified claim that the Student Montano Investment Fund invested $26 million.


Fragosa: Okay and we were just wondering, so within the student senate meeting, we talked about the, or you guys talked about the $26,000 that was from the student investment fund. Is that correct?

SJP Mason President: The student, I believe it’s the Montano student investment fund. So there’s a website for it, I don’t remember the exact acronym. But it’s essentially, it’s a fund that’s run by finance students at Mason. The details are all on the website.

Fragosa: Yes. And we did see that. And we were able to confirm it. We saw the percentages and all that mess. We found that sheet, but we also just wanted to talk about the 26 million that was written out here. And then we also found, we have a photo of the 26 million also being written outside of Fenwick. Is that correct? 

Munkaila: Mhm.

Fragosa: Outside Fenwick. 

Munkaila: Sorry, Wilkins Plaza. 

Fragosa: Oh, Wilkins Plaza my bad. 

SJP Mason President: When?

Fragosa: When was this? 

Munkaila: This was today, actually.

Fragosa: Today, yeah, and then the 26 million was also today, because we had one of our editors come outside and take a photo of it. 

And we were just wondering if you guys know anyone who’s doing this or behind this, or like, the organization knows that it’s 26,000 and not 26 million, because the only thing is that there is a huge difference between the two.

SJP Mason President: Yes yes there is a huge difference. I will say that there’s definitely two different conversations going on. When we say, when we’re talking about the Montana fund, that is specifically 26,000. I think that was clearly stated in the meeting today as well. 

For the 26 million, that is the number that’s been thrown around. I don’t believe- I don’t remember exactly who it came from. On behalf of the Coalition, it’s not a number we’ve published. So I can’t confirm that. 

I can’t say that the individuals who have been doing it are members from the organization or members of the coalition because I think largely people that are part of the Siddhant aren’t part of any organization, they’re just students who participate in it. 

So I do think that there is a basis for that number. I just myself, I can’t speak to it. And I don’t know that anyone else can because we’ve been sticking by the 26,000. I do want to support the people that are saying that, but I myself have not been able to verify the claim of 26 million.

Fragosa: Right. So then I just want to ask also, is there any way you guys are going to address this to the students or at least to your body saying that, “We don’t know where the $26 million is coming from? Could you guys please stop saying this,” or like, how are you guys gonna handle this moving forward?

SJP Mason President: I mean, because it’s only just been brought to our attention, it’ll be a little bit harder to do that. Because we have been so public with the 26,000. I’m sure, maybe the number is truly like 26 million to 26,000 and people are just mixing them up. 

I think we will definitely have some conversations, but it’s kind of hard to figure out who’s doing the chalk because it was a number of people. But at the same time, we’ll actually verify that that number is true, because I’m sure they got it from somewhere, you know. 

Munkaila: First of all I just want to say that you guys are very dedicated, obviously out here. 

SJP Mason President: Thank you. 

Munkaila: You know, I just, I respect that. And I’m just curious in regards to people that are, you know, that represent your group. Do you know this person or like?

[Image of the “SJP representative” speaking at the Student Town Hall held on Feb. 7]

SJP Mason President: Yeah, I do know these people. 

Munkaila: So the reason I ask is because, and this is a clip from the town hall, and this person does directly say that $26 million, I believe they said 10% of the student investment fund almost verbatim. Did you want to hear it or? 

SJP Mason President: Oh, no, no, no, I understood what you’re saying. If so, if it’s 10% of the student investment fund then that number is incorrect, I will say, because 10% of 26,000 is not 26 million. 

So I will say, at that point, I don’t remember exactly what was said, but if that’s what you guys are saying is true, then it probably was just a result of confusion from the town hall itself. 

You know, being berated by your own president and getting yelled at and things like that. But oftentimes when we have people speaking on behalf of our organization, they identify themselves as part of the organization, not just someone who supports the movement.

So I would say we don’t support that claim. We’re sticking to the 26,000. I think for the 26 million, that one, we haven’t been able to get that. I know there was a source for it and I know someone did find it, but since the time that we saw, or they found the source, because it wasn’t me that was working on it, it wasn’t able to be located again. 

So, that in itself is an entirely different conversation with how universities historically censor certain types of data and hide them once they see the SJPs, or just divestment campaigns in general, start looking into where the funding is going. So yeah, I think that’s all I can say for now. 

Munkaila: Okay, I guess quickly. It’s just because today, you probably saw me, I think we spoke earlier.

SJP Mason President: I don’t think we spoke today you might have spoken- I don’t think I spoke to you.

Munkaila: I thought you asked if I could blur faces, I could be wrong.

SJP Mason President: That wasn’t me, it wasn’t me, it was someone else. It might’ve been my sister.

Fragosa: Awh you have a sister that goes here?

Munkaila: Oh you have a sister?

Fragosa: Awh that’s so sweet.

SJP Mason President: She looks like me so, that’s why I was like yeah that wasn’t me.

Munkaila: It’s just this was written outside like literally right outside of the [Merten Hall]. 

SJP Mason President: Yeah. I mean, I will give this as an example, like we don’t really have control over what people are writing.

Fragosa: That’s fair.

SJP Mason President: Like these, I wasn’t the one writing the chalk, none of my officers were the ones writing with the chalk. 

So, and honestly, this has been something that the university has tried to pin us for when people are writing more threatening messages or actually antisemitic messages, they try to pin it on us and I’m like, ‘How can I,’ you know, ‘as president of this organization, keep track of every single person?’

We do our best to ensure what’s being conveyed is safe and within our message, but, for that, I wasn’t present for that to verify, I was on the other side of the wall just trying to make sure I didn’t fall from the wind. But I will tell you that, that wasn’t-

Munkaila: I did see that.

SJP Mason President: Yeah you saw me, it’s something about this campus and wind like it’s so bad.

Fragosa: Yeah there’s wind tunnels everywhere.

SJP Mason President: Oh my god, it’s like this whole campus. 

But I will say that whoever wrote that down was not, at least, at the very least, not a board member. I don’t know if they’re a registered member because we do have a lot of registered members. But I will say that it’s not coming from our board members.

Munkaila: I just want to say it is really nice to actually finally get to meet you. My name is Andani by the way, you’re Jena?

SJP Mason President: Hi, nice to meet you and yeah.

Munkaila: So just as president of SJP, you are president of SJP?

SJP Mason President: Yeah.

Munkaila: Okay, could you say that the $26 million claim is like, is that true or false?

SJP Mason President: I can’t say if it’s true or false, because I mean, as I told you earlier, like, we don’t know.

The number came from somewhere. I will tell you that, and I will say that it did not come from the same source as the 26,000, because we, that number has been set aside, that number has been understood to come from the Montano fund. That number has been found, and it’s been clear. 

The 26 million, it was a number that was thrown around and we have been trying to essentially track down where it came from. But you know, as President, I, you know, we have committees. This is not the work of SJP. This is the work of the coalition. And under the coalition structure, we have people that are allocated just to working on divestment.

So, me personally, I’m not one to answer that question, but from my understanding, 26 million has not been the number we have been going forward. It’s been 26,000 is the one that we can verify. 26 million at this time, we haven’t been able to figure it out.

Munkaila: When is it that the coalition started using the 26,000 number?

SJP Mason President: 26,000, I believe at the town hall, I think so.

Munkaila: At the town hall, I don’t believe there was any mention of that number there.

SJP Mason President: So okay, I think then, I would say maybe it was the mixup because we had only found it recently, like it was very close to the town hall that we had found out about the Montano fund. 

Munkaila: I remember that.

SJP Mason President: So it was all, it was within that short timeframe.


SJP Mason President: Sorry.

Fragosa: No it’s okay.

SJP Mason President: So, what was the question? 

Munkaila: It was when you guys started using the 26,000 because frankly, I have literally, I haven’t heard that number until today. 

Fragosa: And for the transcript for the town hall, no one said 26,000, the only number that was thrown around was 26 million, and we posted the transcript.

SJP Mason President: So was it, but was it, it was paired with the Montano fund?

Fragosa: So no one told us about the Montano fund that we found out about today. 

SJP Mason President: Okay, but if you watch the clip again, I assume that’s what you were saying, right?

Fragosa: Yes.

SJP Mason President: Okay.

Munkaila: Let me just pull it up.

Fragosa: And there’s the- if you go on the website to look at the full transcript.

SJP Mason President: I just like know about the Montana fund because I actually looked at that one.

Fragosa: Right and we appreciate that.

SJP Mason President: So I’m able to speak to it. But I remember it was the day before, two days before, that we had come up with that number.

[Andani pulls up a video clip from the Student Town Hall of an SJP representiave saying “$26 million, approximately 10% of the student investment fund investments, is funding the ongoing genocide.”]

SJP Mason President: Yeah, if that’s what was said then I think she was just misspeaking. Because if it’s coming from the student fund, then it can’t be $26 million.

Fragosa: Right because we don’t even have that.

SJP Mason President: Yeah. We definitely do not have 26 million, I’m sorry, I wish, I wish we had 26 million.

Fragosa: Right, we all wish. 

Munkaila: So is that an error then? Because it’s not even just at the town hall. This is a number that I’ve heard many people say personally and even today, someone chalked it and I believe you know at Wilkins Plaza today someone chalked it.

SJP Mason President: I don’t know, I can’t say for a fact that it’s incorrect. But I can say that it is, the 26,000 is the number for the Montano Fund because like you can’t, you can’t mix up million and a thousand.

Fragosa: Right, that’s a lot of zeros. 

SJP Mason President: I think she might have misspoken in that moment. But I do think that number did come from somewhere. But again, we’ve been trying to find the documents like track them down since I guess prior to the town hall, but we haven’t been able to do that. So I don’t think it’s baseless. I just think it’s a matter of actually confirming whether it’s true. But for now I, there’s really nothing we can add on to that

Munkaila: But you personally you have not- 

SJP Mason President: Me? Oh no. 

Munkaila: No, you have not heard or seen any mention of 26 million?

SJP Mason President: 26 million, no, I have not seen it. I mean, I can’t say, it’s kind of hard to say because it was part of the conversations we were having and I had people relaying it. I really can’t confirm whether it was 26 million. There was a number in the millions. There was a large portion, there was calculations.

Munkaila: I’m just asking if you, yourself were aware that-

SJP Mason President: That it was given, thrown around you mean?

SJP Mason President: Yeah, no, I mean, I’ve heard it around, but I couldn’t. I mean, what am I gonna say like, ‘stop saying that,’ you know.

Munkaila: You know it- and I really will have to check my footage, but you know, I see you guys all the time. 

SJP Mason President: Yeah. 

Munkaila: And I feel as if I’ve heard that number being said.

SJP Mason President: Yeah, no, it has been said.

Munkaila: But like by you guys during any like demonstration that why I’m-

SJP Mason President: No because we haven’t done any since then. I don’t think so.

Fragosa: I will add that I did interview someone during the Divest from Death protests. Were you guys behind that by any chance? 

SJP Mason President: Divest from Death?

Fragosa: Yes. 

SJP Mason President: Was that? No.

Fragosa: Yes it was when you guys came to Merten. Because I did interview somebody.

SJP Mason President: Was it me?

Fragosa: No, it wasn’t you.

SJP Mason President: Oh okay I was making sure, I was like, ‘was it me?’

Fragosa: But I did- we did talk, but we did talk to somebody else prior at Wilkins before you guys walked over here and he also gave me the 26 million almost verbatim.

SJP Mason President: Was it someone who identified as an officer? 

Fragosa: I wasn’t sure, I just know for sure he was holding a sign and we were targeted to talk to him.

SJP Mason President: Because that’s, that’s kind of conflicting, because usually our officers don’t even hold signs because we’re too busy like, running around.

Fragosa: We were just pointed to him.

SJP Mason President: Yeah, yeah. No, yeah, I understand that.

Fragosa: But he gave us an answer and he gave us that 26 million.

SJP Mason President: Yeah, that is confusing. Yeah, I really can’t speak to that any more than I have. But typically, unless someone identifies themselves as an SJP officer, then they’re not, then they are speaking on behalf of SJP. But for the 26 million like…

Fragosa: Who knows? 

SJP Mason President: Who Knows? Really, who knows? I, again, I will reiterate, the number came from somewhere and I know they have been trying to track it down. But, I haven’t been the one so I really can’t speak to it. The 26,000 is the correct number. 

But I’ve heard the 26 million coming from people who have nothing to do with the campaign at all, you know, like people are doing their own research, people have come up to like with different numbers that are completely unrelated. But yeah, unfortunately, I can’t confirm where it’s coming from at this time.

Fragosa: Right. So then could I ask, I guess this is for you personally, if you were to see 26 million chalked anywhere, for you personally, what would you do? Are you going to keep it up, or are you going to say, ‘Hey, who wrote this,’ you know?

SJP Mason President: What position am I in, I guess, to remove what other people do?

Fragosa: Well, it’s more of just, I see it as your position as President. So you’re leading these people and I just wouldn’t want you guys to spread alleged information, you know what I mean? 

SJP Mason President: Yeah, I see what you mean.

Fragosa: And be, ‘like, hey, so at the moment, it’s 26,000, not 26 million. But could you tell me where you got this from? So then we can maybe push this narrative.’

SJP Mason President: I think at this point, the number has been spread too far for me to really, you know, for someone to say, I got it from my independent research. Again, I haven’t seen it, I haven’t myself, I haven’t seen that people are writing the 26 million, like the chalk appears.

Fragosa: Yeah, it just appears and you’re just like, ‘oh.’

SJP Mason President: Yeah cause I’m usually facilitating, I’m having the conversations with administration, I’m doing these things. So, I haven’t been one to stop people because there have already been issues with telling people to not do things both on the university administration level and also on the personal level. I’m not here to tell people what to do. I’m here to kind of advise them. So when it comes to that number, I have asked that, have been like, hey, you know, just write free Palestine, things like that. But on a personal level, I don’t know, it’s kind of hard.