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The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Pro-Palestinian protestors call on Board of Regents to divest from Israel

During public comment at the Iowa Board of Regents meeting, activists called on regents to divest from and cut ties with weapons manufacturers, Israeli universities, and companies that support Israel.
Ryan Paris
The Palestine flag waves during a three-day solidarity event on the Pentacrest in Iowa City on Friday, May 3, 2024. This demonstration was organized by the Iowa City Students for Justice in Palestine.

A group of activists called on the Iowa Board of Regents to disclose their investments and divest from any companies that are financially tied to Israel during public comment at the Board of Regents meeting on Wednesday. 

The protest comes after universities and colleges, including the University of Iowa, across the U.S., faced pressure to divest from weapons manufacturers and companies that support the Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip over the last seven months. Over 37,000 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli invasion since the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas fighters that killed more than 1,000 Israelis. 

During a heated public comment period that frequently included chants from the public seating at the back of the meeting, held in the UI Levitt Center for University Advancement, speakers yelled, “Disclose, divest — we will not stop, we will not rest.” 

The group of almost 30 protestors marched up the stairs of the Levitt Center to the fourth floor, where the Board of Regents meeting was being held, chanting as regents began the investment and finance committee meeting. There, David Barker, the chair of the finance committee, read a statement regarding the board’s investment policy mere minutes after protestors entered the public seating area. 

“We are not given the flexibility to play politics with the funds that we manage,” Barker said while reading from a prepared statement. “With regards to the current calls for divestment from companies doing business with Israel, we will not refrain from investing directly or indirectly in companies because of their relationship with Israel as long as those companies are allowed by state and federal law and meet our criteria for return.” 

Barker pointed to several areas in Iowa code that prevent them from tailoring their investment portfolio for political reasons — including a section of Iowa law that requires regents to “collect the highest rate of interest, consistent with safety, obtainable on daily balances in the hands of the treasurer of each institution.” 

Barker pointed to another section of Iowa law that prohibits Iowa funds from being invested in a company that supports the Boycott Israel movement, commonly known as BDS or the Boycott, Divest, Sanction movement.

“Our fiduciary duty is to the people of Iowa whose taxes and tuition support our universities. We owe the people of Iowa prudent management of the resources that are entrusted in us,” Barker said. “We will continue to prudently invest university funds without political influence and in accordance with state and federal law.” 

In return, activists yelled “killers” and “shame” during Barker’s comments. 

Speakers including Clara Reynen, a local activist who is affiliated with local pro-Palestinian movements, called on the Board of Regents to publicly disclose if they support companies that materially support or supply the war in Gaza and to cut academic ties with Israeli institutions. 

Reynen said investing in Israel doesn’t align with the purported values of the university. 

“For as long as we allow our institutions to not only be complicit but participate in genocide and ethnic cleansing, we will never reach these goals, and it becomes more and more clear that you do not work to uphold these values,” Reynen said. “I am here because I believe we will do better. I am here because we must do better. We must end all partnerships with Israeli universities and companies that profit from the state of Israel.” 

M Denney, a local activist and recent doctoral graduate from the UI, said the regents’ refusal to divest has perpetuated the war in Gaza.  

“This board and the universities overseas are openly complicit in the ongoing genocide in Palestine and, as we heard earlier today, seemed comfortable or even happy with the blood on their hands,” Denney said, referring to Barker’s comments.

When asked, a Board of Regents spokesperson said no board policy prevents the board from disclosing details of their investments and could not immediately confirm ties to Israeli institutions and weapons manufacturers listed by activists. 

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About the Contributor
Liam Halawith
Liam Halawith, Politics Editor
Liam Halawith is a third-year student at the University of Iowa studying Journalism and Mass Communication and minoring in Public Policy. Before his role as Politics Editor Liam was a politics reporter for the DI. Outside of the DI Liam has interned at the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Southeast Iowa Union. This is his second year working for the DI.