Students at both ends of the state are demanding that the University of California divest itself of investments in companies doing business with foreign governments they consider oppressive.
For over a year, the UC Berkeley group Students for Justice in Palestine has protested University investments in companies that conduct business with Israel. Members occupied Wheeler Hall on April 9, which disrupted classes and resulted in the group’s suspension.
Students for a Free Tibet will protest the UC Regents at Wednesday’s board meeting, demanding the UC sell the stock of companies that are associated with China to the detriment of Tibet.
At UCSB, 12 people gathered in the Multicultural Center Theater on Monday to hear Maoist International Movement spokesperson Steve Jessue and Mateo Andante, a member of Students for the Liberation of Aztlan and Latin America. The speakers demanded the UC publicly state its policy on Israel, condemn the brutality of Israeli occupation and divest from companies that do business with Israel.
“The UC has a stake in the bloodshed in Israel,” Andante said. “Israel is an international outlaw that disobeys the demands of the international community.”
The two speakers estimated that in 2001, the UC invested $1.4 billion of $40 billion in total investments in companies that do business with Israel, such as General Motors, Lockheed Martin and Citigroup. Another group, the Students for Justice in Palestine, placed the figure at $6.2 billion.
UC spokesman Trey Davis said the amount of money invested in companies associated with the Israeli government is difficult to determine because the UC invests in companies through index funds, which consolidate many other stocks.
“The UC used to invest by purchasing individual stocks, but they found that it was hard to diversify their investments.” he said. “In the case of divestment, even though we may sell our stock in a company, we may still be investing in the company indirectly through a stock index.”
Regents Chairman John Moores issued a statement saying the UC is open to faculty, staff and student opinions on divestment, but that the regents also have a “fiduciary responsibility” to protect funds that benefit various UC programs.
A few attendants questioned Jessue’s statistics and facts, and two students frustrated by his answers walked out. Junior environmental science major Dan Vermillion, who stayed, agreed with the presentation and said he does not want his tuition fees supporting Israel.
“My fees are supporting the Zionist State of Israel,” he said. “By pressuring the UC to divest from companies doing business with Israel, students would make a statement. Israel needs to look at its policies and not treat people as secondary citizens, as dogs.”