Skip to content Skip to footer

University of Michigan Faculty Call for College to Divest From Israeli Companies

“We hope this serves as precedent for future faculty-led divestment initiatives on university campuses,” SJP said.

The University of Michigan is pictured in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The University of Michigan (U-M) Faculty Senate Assembly passed a measure this week calling on university leadership to divest from companies that invest in Israel’s genocide in Gaza.

“Congratulations to all of the hardworking faculty members at the University of Michigan who made this historic victory possible,” National Students for Justice for Palestine (SJP) said on social media. “We hope this serves as precedent for future faculty-led divestment initiatives on university campuses across Turtle Island.”

The resolution asserts that the number of civilian casualties in Gaza surpasses the average observed in all other global conflicts of the 21st century, and that Israeli forces have killed more than 1 in every 200 people residing in Gaza since October 7, 2023.

The measure also highlights Amnesty International’s discovery that munitions originating from the United States were employed in at least two confirmed Israeli airstrikes in Gaza, killing 43 civilians. Amnesty International, along with 15 other human rights organizations, has demanded that the U.S. State Department suspend all military weaponry transfers to Israel until it conducts an investigation into whether U.S. weapons have been used in human rights violations.

“All states have the obligation to prevent atrocity crimes and promote adherence to norms that protect civilians. The international community is long overdue to live up to these commitments,” the human rights coalition said in a statement.

Additionally, Human Rights Watch has determined that the United States could be implicated in war crimes should it persist in furnishing weapons and diplomatic support for Israel’s ongoing actions in Gaza.

Limited information is available regarding the university’s investments in companies associated with Israel’s genocide. Despite a Faculty Senate assembly’s inquiry in November seeking details on the university’s investments, there has been no response from university administrators. Moreover, the university has rejected multiple Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests related to these investments.

However, such divestment measures are not unprecedented in the university’s history. For example, after years of student activism, the Board of Regents in 1983 agreed to divest 90 percent of its holdings from companies doing business with apartheid South Africa.

During this assembly, U-M faculty also passed a resolution demanding that the university protect student free speech amid nationwide crackdowns on student protests. The measure expresses disapproval in recent unjustified interference with students’ free speech and demands that university leadership “protect and encourage the practice of deliberative democracy within the student community.”

Among other instances of suppression, the university canceled votes last fall on two Central Student Government (CSG) ballot initiatives addressing the university’s position on Israel’s genocidal military campaign in Gaza.

“The cancellation of these votes sends an alarming message, in my view, about free speech at this university,” said Derek Peterson, U-M history and African Studies professor and sponsor of the free speech resolution. “If students engage in speech which the University deems inappropriate or counterproductive, then the University leadership thinks itself empowered to suppress or censor that speech. This is a dangerous move.”

U-M students have consistently organized for justice in Palestine and showed up to support faculty resolutions. In fact, the TAHRIR, a coalition of 60+ student organizations united for Palestinian liberation, organized a silent protest at the Senate Assembly meeting in support of the measures.

“Our peers are inside flooding the room to send our message on our behalf here today at this specific faculty senate,” Zaynab Elkolaly, Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE) director of activism, told The Michigan Daily. “(It) has a huge pull on administration and an affirmation that they’re calling for divestment would be (a) huge benefit to the cause.”

The passage of these measures by the U-M Faculty Senate Assembly reflects a growing movement among faculty members, spurred by student advocacy, to call for universities to divest from companies that benefit from the Gaza genocide. In December, 60 faculty members at Amherst College sent a letter to the college’s president and members of the board of trustees demanding that the university divest from companies profiting from the “ongoing Israeli military operations that are laying Gazan life and society to waste.” Faculty at Princeton University, Brown University and Harvard University have also called on their universities to cut ties with Israeli companies and U.S. corporations selling weapons to Israel.

A critical message, before you scroll away

You may not know that Truthout’s journalism is funded overwhelmingly by individual supporters. Readers just like you ensure that unique stories like the one above make it to print – all from an uncompromised, independent perspective.

At this very moment, we’re conducting a fundraiser with a goal to raise $28,000 in the next 2 days. So, if you’ve found value in what you read today, please consider a tax-deductible donation in any size to ensure this work continues. We thank you kindly for your support.