SAFE launches campaign to encourage divestment

By Emily Miiller, Daily Staff Reporter
Published February 24, 2015

Students Allied for Freedom and Equality — the University chapter of the activist group Students for Justice in Palestine — read a new divestment resolution Tuesday during the Divestment and Sanctions Symposium. Organizers intend to bring it before the Central Student Government.

The resolution calls for CSG to support the creation of a committee through the University’s Board of Regents to examine the ethics of the University’s investments, specifically in companies that allegedly facilitate the violations of Palestinian human rights. The resolution calls on the regents to divest University endowment holdings from Caterpillar Inc., The Boeing Company, G4S and the United Technologies Corporation.

SAFE advocated for a similar divestment resolution last March that failed to pass in CSG. The vote brought hundreds of individuals both supporting and opposing the divestment resolution to the Michigan Union during the CSG vote.

LSA senior Sami Shalabi, a member of SAFE, said the group is trying to approach the resolution differently this year.

“We’re mainly steering towards focusing on the companies that are socially irresponsible,” Shalabi said. “We’re trying to take the emotion out of it and present facts.”

Following the reading, there was an opportunity for those in attendance to provide their input and suggestions regarding the resolution.

LSA sophomore Nicole Khamis, a member of SAFE, said she believes a University ethics review committee should already exist.

“After we divested from South Africa, when that happened, if you look in the University records, what they wanted to do was to create a committee to look at our investments,” Khamis said. “Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case, and that doesn’t exist.”

The resolution cites United Nations Security Resolution 242 and various University policies, including the University’s divestments from South African apartheid in 1978 and tobacco companies in 2000, as the reasoning for creating the committee.

If the committee is formed and decides the University should divest from the companies, the four corporations would be given a year’s warning to change the policies deemed unethical. The University would discontinue investing in the companies if these changes were not implemented.

Apart from SAFE, members of the University’s Divest to Invest group gathered on the Diag earlier this month to call for the University’s divestment from fossil fuels.

However, according to University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald, the threshold for passing a divestment policy is purposefully difficult to reach.

“The bar is set intentionally high ... to somewhat insulate the investment office from the political winds that could change from one direction to the other,” Fitzgerald said in an interview last year. “So the bar for considering divesting is set intentionally very high and requires this broad pervasive sentiment throughout University community to even be considered.”

Prior to the reading of the resolution, various booths provided information on the history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and information about the SAFE movement.

Khamis said the symposium sought to raise awareness and understanding about the conflict, as well as encourage students to instigate change.

“It’s about what you can do right now,” Khamis said.

LSA senior Daniel Hurwitz-Goodman, a member of Jewish Voice for Peace, attended the event in support of SAFE and the divestment movement.

“I think that the idea of having education and feedback at the forefront is an important aspect of getting something like this actually passed rather than just talked about,” Hurwitz-Goodman said.