Editor’s note: A proposed ASUCD Senate Resolution supporting divestment was moving through commission meetings last week and was rejected by the Business & Finance Commission on May 7. The Editorial Board had split views on divestment. This editorial represents one of those views.
To divest or not to divest. That is the question. At least, that’s the question that faces the UC system currently.
The University of California is being pressured by various student groups on different campuses to withdraw its investments from several companies that profit from the occupation of Palestine. These companies include General Electric (GE), Raytheon, Caterpillar, Cement Roadstones Holdings and Lockheed Martin.
While it is true that these companies have a significant presence in these war-torn areas, is it really worth taking our investments away just to show support for one ideal or another? The answer is no. Divestments are meant to make a statement. In this case, the divestment would show that the UC system does not support these American companies profiting from conflict in the Middle East. This viewpoint could not be more shortsighted.
The University of California initially invested in these companies not because we support their corporate ideologies, but because these companies are successful, and investing in them can generate another source of income for the cash-strapped campuses. While it is true that these companies are profiting from the conflict, that profit is not coming from our investments. It is coming from the government contracts that bring them there. Taking our money out of these companies may send some limp statement that we don’t support conflict, but the divestment will also result in a major loss of revenue … revenue that is paying for our education.
It’s a slippery slope. GE makes the majority of the light bulbs we use on campus. Should we stop buying GE light bulbs? They also make most of the jet engines that fly you home every vacation. It seems you will have to find another way home since you are no longer supporting that company. Or make sure that you only fly on Airbus planes — they use Rolls Royce engines.
The moral quandary is understandable, but this is not the right time or place to take even more money away from the University. These investments pay the bills, and these misplaced ethics will do nothing to keep the lights on and the water running.