Editorial: Support divestment

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.

Over the past two weeks, hundreds of students were engaged in discussions about whether or not ASUCD should urge the University of California to divest from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

If it had been passed, the non-binding resolution would likely have been of little consequence to Israel, Palestine or the UC Regents, but the suggestion has brought up an important concern about the University irresponsibly investing student and state money in contentious and potentially unethical companies whose goals are incongruous with the University’s values.

The University of California should, we believe, divest from companies profiting from the Israeli occupation of the Gaza strip. As a public entity, the UC should divest from all companies whose political allegiances take a side in divisive issues on campus, or whose values or actions do not support free education for Californians. This includes investments in the coal industry, and until recently, included the tobacco industry, as well as investments in the war-torn Sudan. Divestment movements aren’t new to the UC system, as the UC continues to do business with entities that many students are opposed to.

One concern brought up at the commission meetings is that such a resolution is intimidating or unsupportive of Israeli, Jewish and Zionist students. ASUCD should take to ensure that such students feel welcome on this campus, and welcome to support Israel by their own means.

However, not supporting Israel financially is different from being unsupportive of Israel. Whether or not one supports doing business in the Gaza strip, the University of California has effectively chosen a side by investing student and state money in these companies. Divestment is not anti-Israel; it is neutral. But continued investment is as good as taking a pro-Israel stance in the name of students and their tuition dollars.

If the Regents are listening, which we doubt they are, a resolution from ASUCD in favor of divestment would be a symbolic nudge toward depoliticizing the UC’s financial agenda.

Whether or not it is ASUCD’s place to rule on divestment is a separate question. We do not believe that ASUCD officials have some insight or clarity that has been lacking in any academic or politician regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The ASUCD commission discussions were largely rotund and superficial, leaving students on both sides distracted and marginalized. Rather than fighting one another about international politics, students should band together and ask the UC Regents why a UC education comes with such a great sacrifice and compromise of politics and identity from our diverse student body.

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