Student Government passes divestment resolution

By AMANDA GHANNAM, Staff Writer

Students at UM-Ann Arbor rally over the divestment proposal.
Students at UM-Ann Arbor rally over the divestment proposal.

This past Friday, with 17 in favor and 5 against, Student Government voted to pass a resolution calling to create an advisory committee to review the University’s financial investments. The committee, if it finds that the University is investing in companies complicit in human rights abuses around the world, will recommend to the Board of Regents to divest, or sell off their stock in those companies.

The resolution specifically mentioned four companies—General Electric, Heidelberg Cement, Caterpillar, and United Technologies—that the university currently holds stock in. All four are explicitly involved in the ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestine and human rights violations that have been committed by the Israeli army. For example, Caterpillar produces and sells bulldozers that the Israeli military uses to demolish Palestinian homes; United Technologies sells helicopters that have been used to kill civilians in attacks on towns and refugee camps.

Students for Justice in Palestine, who authored and presented the resolution, say that the university should not be investing in companies that contribute to these or any other human rights abuses. The resolution was endorsed by the Arab Student Union, the Muslim Students Association, She’s the First, Voice for Choice, Students for Islamic Awareness, the Biomedical Engineering Society, Mentors for Brighter Days, and Latinos United. Around 15 supporters of the resolution and 3 opposed to it attended the Student Government meeting.

Those opposed to divestment said the resolution unfairly singled out Israel, specifically denying that Israel is “an apartheid state,” although no one at the Student Government meeting had made that claim in the first place.

Firas Nabil of Students for Justice in Palestine reminded Student Government that he was “denied entry to Palestine [by the Israeli government] just because of [his] Palestinian heritage,” and urged the senators to vote yes to help end such discrimination and violation of people’s civil and human rights.

Although the initial draft of the resolution called for Student Government to ask the investigative committee to ask the Board of Regents to divest if the results of the investigation find it necessary, senators voted to amend it so that it merely calls for the committee to be created. By doing so, UM-Dearborn would be following in the footsteps of top universities such as Harvard, Stanford, and Columbia, all of which have committees in place to review their investment portfolios to ensure ethical investments.

Other universities that have called for divestment from the Israeli occupation, or boycott of companies that fund it, include Wayne State, Hampshire College,  DePaul University, Earlham College, Evergreen State College, Arizona State University, UC-Berkeley, UC-Irvine, UC-Riverside, UC-Santa Barbara, UC-San Diego, University of Massachusetts-Boston, Oberlin College, San Diego State University, Loyola University-Chicago, the University of Windsor, and McMaster University-Ontario.  Our sister campus in Ann Arbor too proposed a similar divestment resolution, but it was first “tabled indefinitely” and then failed in a 9-25 vote after hours of intense debate.

UM-Dearborn’s Student Government has called for divestment on four previous occasions: in 2005, 2006, 2010, and 2012. The more recent resolutions called for the collection of signatures on petitions to create a committee to review the investments.

“Over 1700 signatures have been collected in support of this. It’s time to create this committee,” said Dhia Mohammad of Students for Justice in Palestine.