The Cavalier Daily
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U.Va. APARTHEID DIVEST: Divest from Death

This election is an opportunity to tell the University administration that the time for silence and complicity has long passed

<p>We honor the legacy of past students by demanding transparency and subsequent divestment from any companies found profiting from human rights violations and death.&nbsp;</p>

We honor the legacy of past students by demanding transparency and subsequent divestment from any companies found profiting from human rights violations and death. 

The University has a rich tradition of student activism, dating back to thousands of University students fervently opposing the Vietnam War in the 1970s. It was a direct result of this activism that University President Edgar Shannon signed onto an anti-war letter to Virginia senators which condemned the United States’ invasion. In 1990, after around a decade of campaigning, student activists successfully pushed for the University to divest from companies doing business in apartheid South Africa. More recently, in 2006, the University approved a resolution prohibiting any future direct investments in companies conducting business in Sudan due to the genocide in Darfur. We honor the legacy of past students by demanding transparency and subsequent divestment from any companies found profiting from human rights violations and death. 

For over four months, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s regime has indiscriminately bombed communities, hospitals, schools and civilian homes. Israeli airstrikes have murdered around 30,000 Palestinian civilians, nearly 12,000 of them children. Around 1.5 million Palestinians have been forcibly displaced and cannot return to their homes. A former United Nations’ official urged the international community to recognize and oppose the ongoing genocide against the Palestinian people. The current violence in Gaza and towards the greater Palestinian diaspora is part of the larger lived-reality of 75 years of brutal military occupation, dispossession and ethnic cleansing that has tormented the everyday lives of Palestinians and threatened the future of Palestinian existence. This is a lived horror that we, as students, deserve to know if our University has been complicit in.

In the wake of the Oct. 7 attacks, top United States defense corporations’ executives boasted about the billions in weapons sales. More specifically, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Boeing all have been proven to have involvement in weapons sales that enable the current assault on Gaza. It should be clear that, for these companies, war is a good thing — they aid and abet Israel’s genocidal campaign to profit from the destruction of Palestinian life. Concerningly, weapons manufacturers like Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman have also served as advisors for the University’s aircraft research. Given the University’s problematic academic partnerships, students are left to question whether or not there are further nefarious University financial entanglements with weapons manufacturers. The University owes us transparency. We demand the right to understand and assess where the University is investing its money.

The University of Virginia Investment Management Company is in charge of managing the University’s investments and has an unclear and potentially concerning policy on the morality of investments. In 2021, UVIMCO formed the Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility to address issues regarding environmental, social and governance factors, claiming their stated commitments to responsible investing. Despite the framework’s attempt to establish a commitment to ESG factors, UVIMCO constructs a vague, unenforceable structure that weakens their commitments by stating that, “relevant ESG factors may vary by investment.” This is an ambiguous phrase that begs the question of whether these factors are determined by profit or by value-based commitments. These power-holders have no sense of how their decisions impact our University community beyond the confines of a balance sheet. Given that UVIMCO allows itself to pick and choose which ESG factors will be upheld and when, there seems to be functionally no restriction against disregarding their own ESG values. We believe that their lack of transparency leaves University students with a deeply uncomfortable certainty that our money is being invested unethically. 

The University claims to serve “the world by developing responsible citizen leaders and professionals; advancing, preserving, and disseminating knowledge.” It is this pursuit that the University strays from as it ignores its own potential complicity in an ongoing genocide. For the University to uphold its promises, we demand transparency regarding investments and immediate divestment from corporations implicated in human rights violations, including but not limited to companies that profit from Israeli apartheid and genocide.  

To this end, Referendum 1: UVA Apartheid Divest will be on the ballot this week for the student body to consider. Our referendum calls for transparency and divestment from all of the University’s endowment funds engaging in or profiting from Israel’s apartheid regime and acute violence against Palestinians. The petition has garnered immense student support, with the required signatures for the referendum to appear on the ballot collected within 48 hours. 

We reaffirm that transparency of investments and consequent divestment is necessary to ensure humanity and dignity remain at the forefront of University decision-making. It is our burden as students to mobilize and advocate for social justice and equality. As such, we urge you to vote yes on Referendum 1. Let’s tell the University administration that the time for silence and inaction has long passed. 

The University of Virginia Apartheid Divest is a coalition of student organizations which have written and sponsored Referendum 1. This article is “paid” for by U.Va. Apartheid Divest. 

The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Cavalier Daily. Columns represent the views of the authors alone. 


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