UTDivest, Unify Texas debate foreign divestment

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Photo Credit: Caleb Kuntz | Daily Texan Staff

Student-led movement UTDivest will propose legislation to Student Government asking for the University of Texas Investment Management Company to pull investments from corporations the group believes facilitate the oppression of Palestinians. 

Unify Texas, another campus movement, has expressed disagreements with UTDivest and has garnered support through social media and an online petition. UTDivest, which the Palestinian Solidarity Committee founded, is part of a larger boycott-divestment-sanctions (BDS) movement started by Palestinian civil society organizations.

Katie Jensen, SG graduate student representative, sociology graduate student supporter of UTDivest, said the movement is fighting for human rights and equality.

“I don’t want my tuition money going to the corporations that have produced the infrastructure that enables the segregation, inequality and painful uncertainties that subjugate Palestinian people,” Jensen said.

Brandon Mond, government senior and one of the founders of Unify Texas, said divestment divides pro-Israel and pro-Palestine groups and cuts off dialogue.

“Dialogue and the free exchange of ideas is sacrosanct at a university,” Mond said. “Where the people who are bringing this divestment movement refuse to engage in dialogue with groups that have opposing ideologies, we think that’s wrong, and we oppose that.”

Mohammed Nabulsi, SG law school representative and supporter of UTDivest, said Unify Texas does not understand the BDS movement.

“Unify Texas relies on a mischaracterization of BDS and our goals here on campus in order to make a straw man argument,” Nabulsi said. “BDS is a step towards leveling the negotiating playing field so that the Israeli government is forced to take Palestinian demands seriously.”

The BDS movement has gained traction at other American universities, such as DePaul University and University of California-Davis. Student groups at these schools have been successful in passing student legislation asking for the divestment of their universities from corporations that the groups believe help to oppress Palestinians. 

Nabulsi said UTDivest plans to introduce its legislation in support of divestment at the SG Assembly meeting Tuesday. The legislation states that investing in corporations which, according to UTDivest, participate in illegal activities or facilitate in oppression of the Palestinian people compromises the University's core values.

“The University of Texas fails to uphold its values of ‘improving the human condition at local and global levels through programs that advance equality’ by investing in companies that facilitate and profit from the illegal occupation of Palestine and systematic human rights violations,” Nabulsi said. 

Mond said their cause has no political affiliations.

“You don’t have to be of a certain mind-set to oppose BDS in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Mond said. “We have pro-Israel students who are against it for obvious reasons. We have pro-Palestinian students who are against divestment also because they don’t think it’s the place of Student Government to decide this.”

University spokesman J. B. Bird said the Office of the President is aware of the two groups, although they have not been approached about the situation. The UT System Board of Regents would make the ultimate decision to divest, according to Bird.

“We have not been formally approached about this question, and we do not have any formal response,” Bird said. “It hasn’t been brought up, so we don’t have a position on it.”

Correction: This article has been amended since its original publication. UTDivest's proposed legislation says investing in corporations that participate in illegal activities or facilitate the oppresion of Palestinian people is contrary to the University's core values.