1165 København K
Tlf: 35 32 28 98 (mon-thurs)
Dispute — »We have to find a way to get in the door,« says Rebecca Knirke of Student Against the Occupation. She will hand over 2,000 new protest signatures to the university’s governing Board.
Rector Henrik C. Wegener received a petition with 1,297 signatures from the Students Against the Occupation group a year ago. The students demanded back then that the University of Copenhagen drop its investments in companies involved in illegal activities in Israeli settlements.
Now the pro-Palestinian student organization has set its sights on Merete Eldrup, chair of the University of Copenhagen’s (UCPH) Board.
Rebecca Knirke who is active in Students against the Occupation was there when the Board convened recently. She had 2,000 new signatures from students with three specific demands for the management team.
READ ALSO: Academic complicity in times of mass murder
Students against the Occupation demand that UCPH recognize the current conflict in Gaza as genocide. That UCPH exerts pressure to call for a ceasefire. And that UCPH withdraws all its investments from foreign companies that are on the UN’s blacklist of actors involved in violating Palestinian human rights on the West Bank.
»We have set up a compendium to give the University Board insight into what we students at the University of Copenhagen want them to consider. It emerged just before the Christmas break that the UCPH investments in illegal activities on the West Bank had multiplied. We would like to send a clear signal that this is unacceptable. That is why we seek dialogue with management on the basis of this new petition,« says Rebecca Knirke to the University Post.
In addition to the petition, there were speeches by Rebecca Knirke and the rest of the Students Against the Occupation before the Board meeting.
You have tried petitions before without significant effect. Why do you think the new signatures will make a difference?
»We have to find a way to get through the door. Our management is not listening to the many students who want action now. The investments are part of our main focus. We cannot tolerate our educational institution contributing to settler colonialism,« says Rebecca Knirke, who is a third-semester student on the Arabic line in Middle Eastern studies.
The government advises against any engagements or activities that strengthen the settlements
Minister for Higher Education and Science Christina Egelund
Rebecca Knirke reckons that the likelihood of the management team meeting the students’ three demands is »very small«. But she adds that the happening and the handover of signatures just marks the beginning of a campaign that the Students Against the Occupation have lined up.
»It’s really important that we raise awareness about UCPH ignorance,« says Rebecca Knirke.
Students against the Occupation are dissatisfied with the fact that UCPH does not require its asset managers to take on a stronger ethical stance:
»If UCPH can invest in companies with activities in Israeli settlements that are declared illegal under international law, and at the same time claim that their investments comply with the university’s own ethical investment policy, then there are grey areas in this policy. We demand that UCPH considers this,« Olivia Zart, an active student against the occupation, said in an earlier article in the University Post.
»We believe that the investment policy should be revised so that UCPH no longer invests in companies operating in Israeli settlements. This is a requirement that management must make of the asset managers who invest on behalf of the university,« Olivia Zart said at the time.
The University Post has tried, in vain, to get an interview with management about the UCPH investments. This has not been possible, but in a written response, media manager Jes Højen Razga states that management is aware of the matter.
»With the addition that prior to the April-scheduled Board meeting UCPH is in dialogue with our asset managers about whether it is possible to get into mutual funds where companies on the UN list are not included,« he said.
The UCPH has expanded its investment portfolio to include companies such as Booking.com and eDreams Odigeo which rent out homes located in illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. Investments that now amount to almost DKK 10 million.
In the wake of the latest several million kroner increase in value, the University Post has asked Minister for Higher Education and Science Christina Egelund to comment on the controversial UCPH investments.
We do not want to be exposed to companies that are on the UN list
University director Søren Lind Christiansen, Aalborg University
»The government advises against any engagements or activities that strengthen the settlements. It is important to emphasise however, that the universities are self-governing institutions, and it is up to the universities themselves to manage their own capital, as long as they comply with applicable laws and regulations. That is why I am not going to make a specific assessment of the University of Copenhagen’s investments,« the minister says.
Aalborg University has previously been highlighted as an example of how it is possible to withdraw from investments if they turn out to be involved in companies on the UN blacklist.
Two years ago the university sold off all investments that were involved in the West Bank. After the University Post made a Freedom of Information request to documents, it turned out that Aalborg University, via its asset managers, today invests in two companies that appear on the UN’s revised list from 2023 of companies with illegal activities in the West Bank. Aalborg University informs the University Post that they will ask their asset managers to divest from these shares.
»Our investments must comply with international standards. They should be ethically, socially, and environmentally sound. In 2021, we asked our asset managers to sell off the shares in companies that were in a grey area, and they did,” says University Director Søren Lind Christiansen to the University Post.
»It now turns out that we currently have exposure in our portfolio at SEB to two of the 112 companies on the UN’s updated list from 2023. We are now asking SEB to divest us of these shares as well. We do not want to be exposed to companies that are on the UN list,« he says.