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University of Montana students call for investment disclosure at ceasefire protest

Students and faculty walked out of class in Missoula on Wednesday protesting for a ceasefire in Gaza
Posted at 10:53 AM, May 02, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-02 12:53:51-04

MISSOULA — The University of Montana joined the many other campuses across the country that have engaged in protests calling for the end to the war in Gaza.

Students and faculty walked out of class at 1 p.m. on Wednesday protesting for a ceasefire in Gaza and also for the University of Montana Foundation to reveal information about their investments.

University of Montana protesters hold up fists in support of Palestinians on May 1, 2024.

The protest was organized by a group of students in solidarity with the Palestinian Youth Movement. May 1 is also International Workers Day.

Once the students were gathered on the oval, they started a march around campus, chanting “Free Palestine” and “We will not stop, we will not rest, disclose, divest.”

“We're not trying to center ourselves in this narrative, it's not about us, it's about Gaza, it's about the people who are suffering, who have lost their homes, who have lost their family members,” Linnea, one of the organizers of the protest who did not wish to disclose her last name, said.

A protester at the University of Montana campus holding a sign that says "Palestine will be free" on May 1, 2024.

Similar to the protests at Columbia University, students believe the University of Montana Foundation has private investments in companies supporting the bombing in Gaza or supporting the Israeli government.

The UM Foundation is a non-profit entity that manages fundraising efforts, donations, and investments for the University. They offer scholarships and other financial support to students, but they also make private investmentsin order to increase their capital.

While the foundation is not affiliated with UM, the UM-UMF Operating Agreement states that the direct compensation from the University to the foundation will total $1,033,140 for the contract ending in January 2025.

Students have called for UMF to disclose their investment information, but the foundation refused. Instead, they sent out the following statement:

“The University of Montana Foundation Board is committed to responsible investment stewardship while seeking to generate the highest level of returns to support the mission of the University of Montana for generations to come. To achieve this, we believe in access to a broad investment opportunity set. Rather than divest from specific segments of the capital markets, the Foundation Board prefers a more inclusionary approach to the investment decision-making process. The Foundation’s endowment portfolio has no direct investments with weapons manufacturers.”

The University of Montana does not have a say in how or where the foundation invests its money.

“We’re calling on this university to disclose its financial investments and to divest from companies that profit from the occupation of Gaza and the war on Gaza, including weapons manufacturers,” Linnea said.

The University of Montana said no students will be punished for the protest on May 1, 2024.

There was one counter-protester holding an Israeli flag. He was asked to leave after blowing his nose on a pro-Palestine protester but was later allowed to return peacefully.

There was a small campus police presence on the scene Wednesday, but the Missoula Police Department was not present.

Linnea said the protesters were not aiming to be antisemitic with their chants.

“We’re absolutely cognizant of antisemitism,” she said. “There are Jewish organizers among us, and we absolutely condemn antisemitism, but we’re not really here to talk about Oct. 7, it’s been discussed in depth by people far more educated and knowledgeable than I am. We’re here to talk about the war crimes in Gaza and the humanitarian crisis.

After the march, students drew pro-Palestinian chalk art on the Oval concrete.