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Published on April 23, 2024
Pro-Palestinian Students Stage Encampment at University of Michigan, Demand Divestment Amid National TrendSource: Google Street View

Students at the University of Michigan have set up a pro-Palestinian encampment on campus, complete with signs and tents, demanding divestment from companies with ties to Israel. According to a CBS News Detroit report, the movement is part of a national trend with students making similar calls on various campuses.

One anonymous student, quoted by FOX 2 Detroit, criticized the university's investment priorities, saying, "instead of funding education, instead of funding living wages for every worker, the university is choosing to fund war." Known as the Diag, the central area of the campus usually bustles with students but has now become the stage for the encampment. Concerns about personal safety have been expressed by participants with several choosing to remain unnamed.

This encampment, however, is not without controversy. Jack Landstein, UM Student and vice president of engagement at Michigan Hillel, told FOX 2 Detroit, "It’s just upsetting that on the first night of Passover right before we wake up to an encampment and I can’t walk in a certain part of campus that I used to be able to go to and calling it home does get tougher."

The university administration has increased security to maintain a conducive environment for learning, assuring that while peaceful protest is allowed, it should not disrupt university activities. As reported by CBS News Detroit, the University of Michigan spokesperson stated, "This morning, 20 tents were placed on the main quadrangle, known as the Diag, at the University of Michigan. Students are able to engage in peaceful protest in many places on campus and, at the same time, the university has a responsibility to maintain an environment that is conducive to learning and academic success. No one has the right to substantially disrupt university activities or to violate laws or university policies. We are working to minimize disruptions to university operations – most especially with classes ending tomorrow and the study period beginning before finals. Safety is always a key priority and, as such, we have increased security on campus. We are carefully monitoring the situation and remain prepared to appropriately address any harassment or threats against any member of our community." In the face of this student activism, the Board of Regents has maintained its long-standing policy against allowing university investments to be influenced by political pressures.

Activists from TAHRIR Coalition argue the university has over $6 billion invested in managers profiting from companies with links to Israeli military actions. Despite the university's statement emphasizing donor-directed funds and resistance to political influence, organizers say they won't leave until full divestment is realized. One activist proclaimed to FOX 2 Detroit, "We’re not moving so come talk with us. Let's talk meaningfully about divestment."

Adding to the complexity of the situation, the Anti-Defamation League chapter in Michigan has called on the university to ensure that inflammatory protests do not interrupt the academic experience of students. Both sides appear to be digging in their heels, with the university maintaining its investment policy and protesters resolute in their demand for change.