Broad coalition passes divestment call at San Jose State

Students at San Jose State University in California are demanding that their institution’s board of directors pull investments from companies that profit from violations of Palestinians’ rights.

San Jose State became the first campus within the California State University system to seek divestment after a resolution passed on 18 November by the student body. Seven out of 9 undergraduate student governments at University of California campuses have passed similar resolutions in recent years.

Kais Zafer, a member of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at San Jose State, told The Electronic Intifada that 28 student groups supported the resolution.

“Reckless investment”

Students identified several US firms that profit from Israeli occupation — Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions and Hewlett-Packard — as well as multinational security firm G4S in which San Jose State holds investments.

“As a student body, we didn’t want to be involved in reckless investment policies that are complicit in human rights violations,” Zafer said.

On 4 November, a preliminary vote on the divestment resolution passed in the university affairs committee of the student government. After the resolution passed by 10-5 votes in the full student government on 18 November, the board of directors of the Tower Foundation, which is responsible for the university’s investments, is now set to discuss and consider implementing the students’ demands in coming weeks.

In an email sent to the entire student community at San Jose State on 19 November, the university’s interim president Susan Martin expressed appreciation for the “vigorous and civil” debate at the divestment hearing.

“Ensuring room for debate and dissent is essential to the fabric of a public university,” Martin added.

“Get divestment done”

San Jose State’s SJP chapter was formed a year ago, Zafer said, with the explicit intent to “get divestment done.” Student activists began forming relationships with dozens of student groups and launched targeted educational campaigns on the corporate connections between rights violations in Palestine, in the US and across the world.

He explained that the resolution victory “wasn’t only a cause that Palestinians stood up for, or SJP stood up for … we had the Black Student Union, multiple Latino clubs on campus, the Sikh Student Association, all these different organizations united [around] this one goal of ending complicity with human rights violations.”

Read the entire divestment resolution below.

Editor’s note: The role of San Jose State’s Tower Foundation has been clarified.




"After the resolution passed by 10-5 votes in the full student government on 18 November, the university's board of directors — the Tower Foundation ..."

Here's how the Tower Foundation describes itself:

"Part of the University Advancement Division, the Tower Foundation is SJSU's auxiliary organization dedicated solely to philanthropy. Tower assists with the development, investment, administration and banking of all SJSU philanthropic donations."

So it handles the investment of private donations. But SJSU's directors are the Cal State board of trustees:

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

I went ahead and clarified the Tower Foundation’s role — it is, in fact, responsible for the investment portfolio of SJSU (just that campus, not the other CSU campuses), and its board of directors will decide on divestment implementation. 

Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).