Divestment hurts academic freedoms

By Hayley Nagelberg, Columnist

On Feb. 16, Chancellor Robert Jones stated, “the campus and the entire University System are on record in opposition to any boycott of Israeli academic institutions and have opposed divestment measures here in the past.”

Last year, the entire student body voted on Divestment through the UIUC Divest Campaign, and it was voted down by nearly 1,000 votes.

This year, the campaign is back.

UIUC Divest claims to speak for marginalized communities while failing to protect them here on our campus by threatening scholarships, internships and job opportunities.

UIUC Divest is explicitly connected to the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS). BDS is not compatible with University policies on academic freedom or with the values set forth in Inclusive Illinois. BDS objects to the sharing of ideas between academics.

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UIUC Divest co-opts the platform of human rights with this vague and uncoordinated referendum that seeks to manipulate the student body into supporting their real goal of marginalizing Jewish students, students connected to Israel and minority students at large through BDS.

In its plain text, the referendum co-opts the platform for human rights, while UIUC Divest’s Facebook page and all other materials reflect a clear push for the BDS movement. A vote for this referendum supports the BDS movement without students being informed of what they’re supporting. This referendum is a blank check for discrimination under the guise of responsible investing. There is zero call for oversight, planning or collaboration with all affected groups.

UIUC Divest is hiding their goals and motives. UIUC Divest is co-opting the noble cause of human rights for their own goal.

And this matters tremendously to me and thousands of students on this campus.

While it sounds academic or social justice motivated, this is not an abstract conversation. There are real, tangible threats to this community and UIUC Divest pays no regard to the danger they’re posing to.

Caterpillar sponsors the Caterpillar Engineering Merit Scholarship ($4,000/year) and the Caterpillar Engineering Diversity Scholarship ($3,000/year) exclusively for University students.

Through the Research Park, Caterpillar sponsors the Champaign Simulation Center and the Data Innovation Lab, which opened recently.

Caterpillar sponsors the College of Medicine’s Faculty Scholars Fellowship alongside the Illinois Health Consortium. Engineering students regularly intern at Caterpillar. Locally, Caterpillar funds scholarships at Millikin University, Bradley University and Illinois Central College. Nationally, the Caterpillar Foundation allocates over $3 million to scholarships.

Besides scholarships, internships and careers, the company does much more. In Illinois, the Caterpillar Foundation funds 10-12 projects supporting education, advocacy, access to water/sanitation, disaster relief and the environment.

Globally, the Caterpillar Foundation has partnered with several non-profits (American Red Cross, Feeding America, etc.) to alleviate poverty through Together.Stronger., a collaborative impact platform that unites business, non-profits, governments and citizens to combine their strengths to help 50 million people rise out of poverty by 2020.

I spend many late nights cramming for exams in the ACES library. Every night, when I leave the library to walk home, I see the Caterpillar room. I am reminded how grateful I am to be at a world class academic institution, being prepared for my career every day. I am reminded how amazing it is how our University has partnerships with amazing companies to help us every step of the wayfrom scholarships to attend school here, to buildings for us to study in, to internships and future jobs.

Divestment threatens to hurt the infrastructure that holds up this campus.

I hope that you will join me in voting “NO”: no to divisiveness, no to discrimination, no to racism, no to Antisemitism and no to an effort that has already been defeated.

Hayley is a junior in ACES.

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