In Historic Vote, UC Student Association Endorses Call for Divestment in Support of Palestinian Rights

On the morning of February 8, 2015, hundreds of students gathered in Tom Bradley International Hall at UCLA as the UC Student Association (UCSA) deliberated motions in support of divestment….

On the morning of February 8, 2015, hundreds of students gathered in Tom Bradley International Hall at UCLA as the UC Student Association (UCSA) deliberated motions in support of divestment from companies engaged in the systematic violation of Palestinian rights in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Students from across California arrived to speak in favor of divestment, and to highlight the nearly 90 student organizations across the state which joined the call for the UCSA to endorse divestment. The historic vote passed in an overwhelming majority of 9-1 with 6 abstentions (click here to read the full text of the divestment motion).

The UC Student Association is the official voice of the student body of the University of California, and represents hundreds of thousands of undergraduate and graduate students across the UC system. Today it became the first multi-campus student association to vote in favor of divestment. This landmark vote is undoubtedly the largest victory thus far in the campus divestment movement in the United States.

Since 2012, UC Irvine, UC San Diego, UC Berkeley, UC Riverside, UC Los Angeles, and UC Davis have passed resolutions through their campus undergraduate student governments calling on the UC Regents to divest endowment and pension funds from companies such as Raytheon, Hewlett-Packard, Caterpillar, and Cemex, which facilitate and profit from Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories, its construction of settlements in contravention of international law, its violent bombing campaigns in Gaza, and its construction of checkpoints and walls throughout the West Bank. In addition, the statewide union representing teaching assistants, tutors, and readers – UAW 2865 – recently held a statewide membership vote which resulted in nearly 2/3rds support for divestment.

Students for Justice in Palestine chapters and their many allies across the UC applaud and celebrate the UCSA’s decision to affirm student activism, endorse the divestment call, and carry it forth to the UC Regents.

Quotes regarding the divestment victory:

UC Berkeley External Vice President Caitlin Quinn commented on the nature of this victory and UCSA’s relationship to the student body: “I’m so proud that we passed it, and thankful for and humbled by the years of organizing that went into this. The work is far from over, but finally UCSA has taken the progressive stance many students have been waiting for.”

The External Vice President’s office at UC Riverside addressed the issue of accountability, stating: “We are aware of the unfortunate reality of a Board of Regents that has a very poor record of accomplishment of respecting democratic calls by the student body of the University of California…As firm believers in backing up words with action, we look forward to ensuring that the UCSA remains devoted to the follow-up work critical to an effective campaign.”

UCLA Student Safwan Ibrahim commented on the meaning of divestment to Palestinians at the UC: “As a Palestinian student in the UC system, it’s incredible to see the amount of intersectional solidarity across campuses, and to witness the shift in conversation regarding support of Palestinian human rights. It is especially inspiring to see the UCSA representatives take up the responsibility of carrying our voices to the Regents.”

UC Irvine SJP issued a statement, emphasizing the relationship between the student movement and the call from Palestinian civil society: “As privileged students living in this state, it is our obligation to obey the Palestinians’ call for BDS and push divestment from corporations that profit from and participate in the violation of Palestinian human rights…we hope to see a liberated Palestine in our lifetimes.”

UC Santa Cruz Committee for Justice in Palestine issued a statement, writing “This vote was a product of a monumental struggle that has spanned decades. It is a victory that has opened new fronts for the struggle for justice in Palestine. We would like to especially thank all of our allies, without whom we could have never gotten this far.”

UAW-2865 member Alex Holmstrom-Smith commented on the meaning of this vote to graduate students and student-workers: “I am happy that the UCSA has also listened to the voice of graduate students and student-workers, who earlier this year voted by an overwhelming margin to support BDS and the Palestinian call for justice.”

Students from earlier divestment campaigns also shared their feelings about the historic nature of this accomplishment. UC Berkeley graduate Emiliano Huet-Vaughn reflected: “When we put forward the initial divestment bill at Berkeley in 2010 we knew the pro-divestment position would eventually become the consensus. It is remarkable that student activists across the UC have made that day happen so quickly. The Regents should note this moment as one in a proud tradition of UC student activism, and, seriously consider whether they want the current generation of UC students, also tomorrow’s leaders, to remember them as supporters, or, as impediments, to justice.”