Students urge UC to divest from America

The University of California Student Association on Sunday passed a resolution urging the public university system to divest from corporations that do business with the United States.

The association cited companies that work in the U.S. and eight other countries "with governments violating human rights," according to a UCSA release. The United States was included because of its drone strikes in the Middle East, prison system and immigration laws, among other factors, according to the resolution.

Other states listed:

  • Israel
  • Brazil
  • Egypt
  • Indonesia
  • Mexico
  • Russia
  • Turkey
  • Sri Lanka
University of California, Berkeley attend an "open university" strike in Nov. 15, 2011 in Berkeley, Calif.
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University of California, Berkeley attend an "open university" strike in Nov. 15, 2011 in Berkeley, Calif.

Withdrawing university investment from companies that service certain countries has become an important tool for colleges to assert political or social policies in recent decades. For instance, many schools withdrew investments from corporations conducting business in South Africa during the apartheid era and more recently have been urged to divest from fossil fuels.

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Calls for public American universities to cut ties with companies that service the U.S. government are rarer than pushes to distance themselves from foreign regimes. The decision is a consideration of how best to invest a university endowment, which sits at about $13.2 billion in the UC system, according to the UCSA.

Students urged the university system to withdraw investment from many large American corporations linked to defense and infrastructure.

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The resolution, for now, is largely a political or symbolic gesture. The University of California told CNBC that its investment decision-making has not changed since 2010, when it said that "a policy of divestment from a foreign government shall be adopted by the university only when the United States government declares that a foreign regime is committing acts of genocide."