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Students after University of Copenhagen opts to continue Israel investments: »A huge nothing burger«

Protest — »I'm disappointed and sad,« students say after the University of Copenhagen’s governing Board decided to continue a current investment strategy which includes companies operating in illegal Israeli settlements.

»KU, KU you can’t hide – you’re supporting genocide.«

A group of 30-40 students had gathered in front of the University of Copenhagen (UCPH) Board meeting room in the Lindegården near Frue Plads.

A series of rallying cries run on repeat as the Board members arrive and disappear through the heavy wooden door.

The Board is to approve its strategy for financial risk management and ethical investment policy. The Board is to »discuss and decide whether UCPH should act more proactively and strengthen the dialogue with UCPH’s asset managers in relation to companies in UCPH’s investment portfolio with activities in the West Bank,« as it is formulated in the agenda.

READ ALSO: Boost to University of Copenhagen’s controversial West Bank investments

In January 2024, the student organization Students Against the Occupation handed over a petition to the rector. Here, more than 2,000 students demanded that the UCPH recognize the current conflict in Gaza as a genocide and that UCPH withdraw its investments from companies operating in illegal Israeli settlements.

READ ALSO: 2,000 students want to force the University of Copenhagen to sell off its West Bank investments

Emil Moesgård is a philosophy student at UCPH and active in Students Against the Occupation. Together with a fellow student, he was allowed to attend the meeting during the agenda dealing with UCPH’s investment policy.

Emil Moesgård is a philosophy student.
image: Camilla Skovgaard Thomsen
Emma Moesgaard Olsen, student of political science
image: Camilla Skovgaard Thomsen
Magnus Munk is a political science student
image: Camilla Skovgaard Thomsen

»There were no specific solutions. They approve the existing strategy and retain their investment policy, and then they will try to sharpen up the dialogue with asset managers,« says a disappointed Emil Moesgård when the University Post meets him after the Board has finished discussing the investment policy.

»It was a huge nothing burger. There were a lot of good intentions stated. But it seems that they themselves are under pressure from the system and are not willing to be the ones who take the lead or look for solutions. I find it ridiculous. I’m disappointed and sad,« he said.

UCPH to have active ownership

University director Søren Skydsgaard commented on the case in an email. He writes that the Board has today discussed the UCPH approach to placing funds in companies on the UN list of companies operating in the West Bank.

»The Board agreed that this is a highly relevant topic that needs attention. At the same time, the Board noted that there is currently no market with investment products where companies on the mentioned list are automatically excluded. This is unless they decide to completely stop investing in companies and put all funds under that are under asset management in government or mortgage bonds,« he writes and continues:

»The Board does not consider this appropriate however if you want to ensure the right balance in relation to risk diversification of the portfolio and safeguarding a return on investment.«

The Board has thereby opted for a solution that, according to its recommendation, means that »UCPH continue as now, with the consequence that companies from the UN list will continue to be included in UCPH portfolio.« The model also states that UCPH will strengthen the dialogue with asset managers.

Students prepared for the demonstration, which was to last all day.
image: Camilla Skovgaard Thomsen
UCPH's board members were greeted by a series of rallying cries and slogans.
image: Camilla Skovgaard Thomsen

According to Søren Skydsgaard, the university lives up to high ethical standards.

»The UCPH ethical investment policy is based on 10 conventions that partly have their origin in the UN and in the OECD. The asset managers collaborate with internationally recognised screening agencies, which review the UCPH portfolio at least twice a year. If it turns out that there are investments that do not meet the ethical criteria included in the international conventions, the assets must be sold within 30 days,« he writes and continues:

»Within this overarching framework, the Board decided that UCPH must, in the future, exercise more active ownership towards its asset managers with a regular dialogue on the companies that may appear in the portfolios that match the UN list and other relevant circumstances. It was also decided that UCPH will proactively monitor whether relevant investment products emerge in the market that include the exclusion of companies on the UN list or other similar issues.«

»We’re going to escalate«

The students’ demo has moved from outside the Board meeting room to Frue Plads, where it lasts until 3.30 pm and ends with a concert by the singer Isam B.

»We knew that we would be able to attend the Board meeting today, but not exactly when. So we decided to be here all day to make it clear that we are here. And now that I’ve been sitting in there, I know they can hear us. I hope it makes an impression,« says Emil Moesgård.

Although he is disappointed with the announcement from the Board, he stresses that Students Against the Occupation will continue the fight:

»We’re going to escalate from now on. We are going to exert pressure. And we are going to keep on coming up with concrete proposals. The kind of proposal that the Board itself does not choose to take up. If the Board does not want to spend time on this, then we students must do it,« says Emil Moesgård.

Students have a co-responsibility

As the day goes on, more students join in. Emma Moesgaard Olsen, a student of political science, has been here since the early hours of the morning and plans to stay until the end of the demonstration.

»I think it is important to show international solidarity with the Palestinians, and as a student I share a responsibility for what UCPH spends its money on. And when I can see that UCPH has unethical investments, I think it’s my duty to tell them to stop,« says Emma Moesgaard Olsen, who is also active in Student Against the Occupation.

Her views are shared by Magnus Munk, a political science student:

»I support the Palestinian struggle for freedom, and I think it’s important to do what you can. I’m a student somewhere that has investments in the illegal settlements, and I’m trying to do something about it by showing up here today,« he says.