SFU administration to discuss divestment from Israel

The Faculty for Palestine express determination in making divestment happen

PHOTO: Gudrun Wai-Gunnarsson / The Peak

By: Hannah Fraser, News Writer

Content warning: mentions of genocide.

On May 30, SFU president Joy Johnson and the Board of Governors agreed to discuss divestment from arms companies that profit from the genocide in occupied Palestine. This announcement comes after months of community pressure and over 1,000 students, faculty, and alumni signing the divestment petition of SFU Faculty for Palestine, who are “a network of faculty who support the cause of Palestinian liberation.” Other actions included the Belzberg Library protest at SFU Harbour Centre while the Board of Governors’ meeting was being held. 

According to Faculty for Palestine, before SFU’s announcement, a faculty-wide vote was held for the divestment. Due to allegations of hacking, the vote was found unreliable and a re-vote was scheduled three weeks later.

The petition demands divestment from BAE Systems, Booz Allen Hamilton, and CAE Inc, all companies that have “collectively facilitated the killing, maiming, or displacement of millions.”

In a message to the community about “responsible investments at SFU,” Johnson and Angie Lamarsh, Board Chair, write that “SFU needs to make investment decisions that are aligned with the academic mission, the University Act, and our values. To do this, the existing Responsible Investment Policy must be reviewed and strengthened.” 

The Responsible Investment Policy “sets out SFU’s approach to incorporating environmental, social, and corporate governance considerations into its investment decisions.” SFU stated this review process will “contain a plan for community consultation” and will “allow for a consultative and transparent process.” 

The Peak corresponded with Faculty for Palestine for more information on SFU’s decision to discuss divestment. Members chose to remain anonymous. 

Faculty for Palestine stated SFU’s framing of the genocide as the “Israel-Hamas conflict” was concerning. “It has been clear for months that the central dynamic since October 7, to say nothing of decades of occupation, has been one of genocide and ethnic cleansing,” Faculty for Palestine said. They cited “institutional neutrality,” which suggests that institutions should be neutral on political issues, showing SFU is an “accomplice in whitewashing an unfolding genocide that was acknowledged months ago by the International Court of Justice.” 

Israeli attacks genocide against Palestinians since October 7 has led to the deaths of at least 37,232 people and wounded 78,000 at time of writing. Israeli attacks did not begin in October 2023, but have a long history dating back to the creation of Israel in 1948, when Palestinians were violently expelled from their homeland. This is also known as The Nakba, and was recently recognized by the UN, who condemned “Israel’s ongoing actions” between 1948–2024, “including occupation and dispossession of Palestinian property” and “brutal and disproportionate use of force.” 

Currently, the distribution of food in Rafah has been suspended and medical supplies are limited since Israel took over “the Palestinian side of the Rafah land” in early May. 

“The more they dig in their heels, the more we will push.” — SFU Faculty for Palestine

On May 17, faculty casted an online vote on Boycott, Divestment, Sanction (BDS) motions a “Motion on Israel/Palestine” and a “Motion to Divest from Corporations Engaged in Military Arms Production.” If both are passed, SFU would formally commit to boycotting, divesting from, and sanctioning these companies. The morning of the vote, the BDS vote was allegedly hacked from 7:308:00 a.m., in which “305 identical votes were cast from a single IP address,” making the vote “unreliable,” according to Faculty for Palestine. On their Instagram, they said the Faculty Association of Simon Fraser University claims this is being investigated by University IT and Security, however The Peak could not independently verify this. 

Faculty for Palestine later stated, “It is unacceptable that there has been no acknowledgement from the SFU administration” regarding the hack, as it “constitutes serious interference in university affairs and faculty governance.” They demand “transparency and accountability” in the form of a formal investigation into the matter.

A re-vote was held on June 7, in which the two BDS motions were passed. Faculty for Palestine states that “divestment efforts have a cumulative effect, and the university has a moral obligation to abstain from investing in and profiting from military arms production.” On May 20, Ontario Tech University became the first university in Canada to divest from companies supplying military arms to Israel. 

“We are not just hopeful, we are determined to make this happen,” said the Faculty for Palestine. “The more they dig in their heels, the more we will push.”

The Faculty for Palestine asked SFU, “Do our investments in the military arms industry align with our values as a university?” 

This is a developing story that The Peak will continue to cover in future issues.

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