May 23, 2024 - News

Northwestern president rejects disinvestment in Israel

Protesters set up an encampment in Deering Meadow for five days. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

Protesters set up an encampment in Deering Meadow for five days. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

Northwestern's administration won't disinvest from Israel, despite demands from pro-Palestinian student activists, the university's president told Congress on Thursday.

Why it matters: Northwestern was one of the first universities to reach an agreement with protesters, whose principal negotiation terms included disinvestment from academic and economic ties to Israel.

  • "I would never recommend to the Board of Trustees divestment of anything or any academic boycott of Israel," NU president Michael Schill, who identifies as a Jewish descendant of Holocaust survivors, told Congress on Thursday.

Context: Leaders of Northwestern, Rutgers and UCLA testified Thursday morning in a Republican-led House committee hearing on antisemitism.

  • That followed similar hearings with presidents of Harvard, Columbia and the University of Pennsylvania.

Flashback: In late April, after five days of NU encampments, the administration reached an agreement with the Northwestern Divestment Coalition, the Daily Northwestern reported.

  • The agreement did not include disinvestment promises but did start the process of investment disclosures by the administration.

Friction point: When asked in Thursday's hearing why NU didn't call police to arrest protesters, Schill said it posed "too high a risk to our student, staff and police officers … and it also created — as we saw around the country — escalation, renewed encampments."

The other side: Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who got her MBA at Northwestern, charged the Republican majority with using the hearings for "political bullying" and asked Schill whether he was also committed to fighting hate against Palestinians, Muslims and Arabs on campus.

  • "Absolutely," Schill answered, saying NU would investigate any and all claims of hate, discrimination or harassment.

The intrigue: Despite Schill's refusal to divest, committee members including Rep. Kevin Kiley (R-Calif.) accused him of "institutionalizing antisemitism and agreeing to the demands of antisemites."

Of note: The Northwestern Divestment Coalition did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

What's next: NU officials tell Axios its June 9 graduation will proceed as scheduled.

Go deeper: Endowment secrecy complicates campus "divestment" demands


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