The UC Santa Barbara chapter of the UC Divest Coalition held a divestment teach-in at the UCSB Library steps on March 13. 

Josh Rhodes / Daily Nexus

UC Divest is a UC-wide coalition that stands “against the University of California’s investment in companies that profit from war, exploit natural resources, and destroy communities both at home and abroad,” according to an informational pamphlet handed out at the event.

Certain names have been left anonymous by request due to safety purposes.

The teach-in, titled “Divest 101,” centered around the UC’s joint profit with BlackRock, its endowment investment partner, and its investments in Raytheon, the Boeing Company and Lockheed Martin — all companies involved with defense contract work and in Israeli government and defense. According to a UCSB Divest member who preferred to remain anonymous, the UC has permitted BlackRock to manage all $169 billion of its investment portfolio and receives yearly dividends from BlackRock’s fiscal allocation.

“They’re the top backer of fossil fuel companies, the largest investor in private prison companies and weapons manufacturing,” they said.

Founded by UCLA alum Larry Fink, a top donor towards the UC endowment, BlackRock manages $10 trillion in assets globally. 

The UC Board of Regents has historically been made up of “business people and politicians, with lots of funds allocated [to] personally beneficial investments,” another speaker said.  The UC Board of Regents is the governing body of the UC which approves university policy, financial affairs, tuition and fees.

UCSB Divest also advocated for the UCSB Associated Students (A.S.) to pass a divestment resolution — a historically controversial dispute at UCSB. 

“An A.S. positional resolution would affirm that the student body is for divestment,” a UCSB Divest Coalition pamphlet read. “That we do not stand for our tuition dollars going toward weapons, destruction, and war. We, the student body, should be reflected in our A.S. senate’s action.”

The A.S. Senate has previously voted on the issue seven times in the last 11 years in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2021. In all cases, it failed to obtain the two-thirds majority vote required for the resolution to pass, making UCSB the only UC campus that has not yet passed a divestment resolution.

The speaker asserted that the UC has not adequately addressed “the needs of students and workers who are overcharged and underpaid, amidst inflation and a housing crisis.”  UCSB students and workers “produce the mass majority of UC’s economic value” and “they have no influence over how their money is being used.”

The teach-in ended with a poem, reading “A Letter from a Bankrupt,” by Palestinian poet Sameeh Al Qassem. 

“I may collapse, naked and starved / Enemy of light / I will not compromise / And to the end I shall fight,” a speaker read from the poem.

Students including second-year Santa Barbara City College construction technology major Robin Isherwood (they/them) shared that this event was an important step in learning how UCSB could divest and support Palestinian liberation. 

“I’m passionate about Palestinian liberation, and the ongoing genocide has only heightened the need for action,” Isherwood said. “There’s lots of valuable organizing happening on this campus . . . there isn’t a lot at SBCC, so I come here for these events.”

The UCSB Divest Coalition did not respond to requests for comment.