After failing to secure the passage of a similar proposal last year, Students Allied for Freedom and Equality proposed a new divestment resolution at Tuesday night’s Central Student Government meeting.
SAFE is the University’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, an international organization that stands for Palestinian solidarity on college campuses. One of the group’s primary goals is to advocate for the Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions movement, which in part asks institutions to divest from companies that allegedly facilitate the violation of Palestinian human rights. Divestment movements are typically group proposals made to a city or university board, requesting suspension of investments in companies that support unethical or immoral actions.
The proposed resolution asks CSG to support the creation of a committee through the University’s Board of Regents to evaluate the University’s investments in four companies. In the resolution, SAFE specifically accused The Boeing Company, Caterpillar Inc., G4S and the United Technologies Corporation of profiting from alleged human rights violations against Palestinians.
The meeting began with nine speakers voicing their position during the community concerns portion of the meeting. Eight of the speakers, including seven University students and an Ann Arbor resident, spoke in favor of divestment.
LSA sophomore Benjamin Gottschalk, a member of Jewish Voice for Peace, an organization promoting education about alleged human rights violations against Palestinians, said divestment is not an anti-Semitic movement.
“I assure you, supporting this organization is not anti-Semitic because it does not target the Jewish people,” Gottschalk said. “It targets multi-national corporations that target human rights and Palestinians.”
LSA junior Inbar Lev, a member of Wolverines for Peace, a group of University students working to promote peace and mutual understanding about the Palestinian and Israeli conflict, spoke against the resolution.
“We invite CSG and all interested students to participate in dialogue opportunities,” Lev said. “We desire to be part of a solution towards peace. Our responsibility can only be assumed through mutual understanding, constructive dialogue and the recognition of the rights of all people.”
LSA senior Marianna Yamamoto is a member of Human Rights Through Education, a student group dedicated to promoting awareness of human rights violations.
“When our University invests in these companies, we, as students and members of the University, are saying yes, these human rights abuses are okay; yes, these lives do not matter; and yes, profit is more important than human rights and human lives,” she said.
The resolution was sent to be approved by the resolutions committee. The assembly will vote on its ultimate approval at CSG’s meeting next Tuesday evening in the Michigan Union’s Rogel Ballroom.
SAFE proposed a similar resolution to CSG last March, asking the University to divest from companies that the same set of companies.
After the resolution was first proposed to CSG, the assembly voted that a vote on the proposal be suspended indefinitely. The decision resulted in a sit-in in the CSG chambers. The next week, however, former CSG President Michael Proppe, who is a Business graduate student, motioned for the assembly to reconsider the proposal. CSG ultimately voted not to pass the resolution in a 25-9 vote with five abstentions.
The University has only complied with divestment requests on two accounts in its history. The first case occurred in 1978 per request by the University’s Board of Regents that a committee look into the “serious moral or ethical questions” of the investments being made in South Africa during the era of apartheid.
In 1999, a request to divest from tobacco companies was made because of their immoral execution of advertising, producing and presenting health information. The proposal ultimately received approval.