FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 13, 2016
University of Minnesota Passes Resolution Calling for Socially Responsible Investment Policies and Divestment from Global Human Rights Violations
On Tuesday, April 12, over a hundred students advocated for the University of Minnesota (UMN) to divest from four particular companies profiting from human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the US/Mexico border, and in prison detention centers across the world. They also called on the University to be more transparent and ethical in their investment practices, as outlined by the university’s Socially Responsible Investment policy. The campaign, UMN Divest, presented a resolution to the student government which was sponsored by 36 student groups and supported by hundreds of additional students. The resolution highlighted how specific companies, in many different countries, profited off violations of international law.
Despite widespread support from students and student groups, the resolution was watered down and stripped of its meaning. During a discussion between student government representatives, the resolution was amended so that all mention of the specific companies the UMN currently either has in their investment portfolio or may invest in in the future was taken out, leaving only the ask for transparency and the demand to divest from generally any company that profits off violations of human rights.
What passed yesterday was stripped of all substance and re-framed as a generic hope for divesting from ambiguous human rights violations. It essentially places Minnesota Student Association (MSA) in support of social responsibility without providing a structure or plan as to how to support. This is a very passive response to a call for divestment from companies that profit off human rights violations.
While we express our disappointment with how the process unfolded, we do support the amended resolution, and see this as an important first step towards a more transparent and socially responsible investment policy at the UMN . This campaign has allowed us to make important and long lasting connections with other communities on campus, which we will continue to strengthen and build. This was a small victory, but still a victory. We will continue our work towards a more just campus, step by step, in solidarity with our allies.
Sara Osman, UMN Divest Supporter:
I strongly believe that in addition to the racial and ethnic based discrimination that took place, there was a strong sense of misogynistic undertones in the way the opposition addressed the young women leaders of SJP. The resolution was edited to make an already international human rights issue even more global. However, come debate, the opposition shared personal stories and made an immense effort to victimize themselves and their cause. They subjugated the students present to extreme discomfort. Even further, one of the speakers spoke the words “Palestinian terrorist” in a room with young Palestinian students. This to me speaks volumes in the fact that the opposition did not care at all about the resolution in the slightest but were threatened by the mere exposure of the human rights violations the companies listed were committing. As I watched the two sides speak, it was very much evident that most, if not all, of the students of color were in favor of the original resolution. The students who all spoke adamantly and vehemently against the resolution all were unwilling and unable to acknowledge the privilege and power that they possessed in the space they were occupying. Yesterday was an example of a certain group of students feeling wholly uncomfortable with relinquishing control and power. This is something that we, as students of color, are all too used to at a public white institution.
Aravind Boddupalli, Student Senator and Co-Sponsor of the Divest Resolution:
The original resolution was about human rights violations around the world and keeping the U accountable for social responsibility. When the opponents learnt that claiming anti-semitism at a human rights-oriented resolution was not working, they took to protecting companies that the U invests in, that are clearly complicit in human rights violations. This was not “middle ground”, this was not dialogue. This was them dominating the narrative and silencing 36 student groups and thousands of students. At a predominantly White and privileged institution, the narrative of minorities was once again delegitimized.
Monica Delgado, College of Liberal Arts Student Senator:
While I am appreciative that MSA took the time to consider the revised UMN Divest resolution, I am disheartened by the commentary that shifted the resolution’s main points of transparency and accountability to a discussion riddled with pathos and arguments that missed the point. It is fantastic that the MSA community requested for more transparency in University investments, but MSA members failed to recognize that a significant number of communities–and months of work–were effectively silenced by what amounted to an unfriendly amendment. MSA, in an effort to prioritize feelings by striking language that called out companies complicit in the violation of international law, really only acknowledged the feelings of those who opposed UMN Divest without considering the ways in which the University’s investments directly impact the lives and wellbeing of the resolution’s campus supporters, community allies, and broader global community.
UMN Divest Supporter:
Though I am disappointed by the diluted resolution that MSA has passed, I stand with the resolution because it holds our University socially responsible. The passion in our work and personal testimonies have opened the discussion of UMN Divest, and I am confident that we will be agents of change in this institution. The diversity represented in our support gives me hope as we continue to work towards our goal of achieving social and ethical responsibility within our University.
Rula Rashid, President, Students for Justice in Palestine, MSA At-Large Representative:
When it comes to human rights violations, it’s black and white. Either a company is violating human rights, or not. The lack of transparency that this resolution now carries is a tactic used to silence this narrative. This is essentially saying that human rights violations don’t matter if they are affecting Palestinians.