Student protesters at Columbia University have a history of pushing for divestment

Student protesters at Columbia University have a history of pushing for divestment

A core demand by a pro-Palestinian student group at Columbia University is for the school to divest investment funds from what they describe as companies profiting from Israel’s war on Gaza.

Columbia’s endowment is valued at $13.6 billion and is managed by a university-owned investment firm.

Demands from the coalition of student groups behind the movement include divesting endowment funds from several arms manufacturers and technology companies that do business with the Israeli government.

The group has described the companies as profiting “from Israeli apartheid, genocide, and military occupation of Palestine.” Israel denies the accusation of genocide.

This is not the first time such a claim has been made.

In 2000, the university established an advisory committee on socially responsible investments, made up of students, faculty and alumni, to provide feedback to its endowment’s investment managers.

Columbia now lists five areas where it has avoided investing: tobacco, private prison operations, thermal coal, Sudan and fossil fuels — all decisions made in the past decade.

Columbia was also the first Ivy League university to break away from South Africa, and various other colleges followed suit.

In 2015, Columbia became the first US university to divest from a private prison company after a student campaign raised concerns about human rights abuses.

The fossil fuel divestment proposal was approved by Columbia’s Board of Trustees in early 2021. The policy includes a commitment not to invest in “companies whose primary business is the exploration and production of fossil fuels.” Columbia’s announcement was followed by similar commitments at other Ivy League universities.

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