Universities hold graduation ceremonies as students protest in US: Live updates

2:59 AM ET, May 4, 2024

Campus protesters call for divestment. It’s happened before

From CNN’s Samantha Delouya

Some students graduating from Columbia University in New York use their motorcycle boards to express their views on the university’s financing of companies operating in South Africa on May 15, 1985.

Richard Drew/AP

Nearly all of the pro-Palestinian protests rocking college campuses in the U.S. have called for universities to divest from Israel in some way.

What would a divestment look like?

Divestment is the opposite of investment.

Many universities have an endowment, a donation of money typically invested in stocks, bonds and other financial instruments to help the university make money.

At Columbia, a group of students wants the college to divest its $13.6 billion endowment from any company with ties to Israel, including Microsoft and Amazon.

Protesters at other schools, such as Cornell and Yale, want their universities to stop investing in gun manufacturers.

What do university officials say?

On Monday, the Columbia government reiterated that it would not divest from Israel. Last week, the University of California also said divestment would not happen.

But some colleges are willing to talk to protesters.

Christina Paxson, president of Brown University, sent a letter to protesters saying she would agree to a divestment proposal if the school’s encampment were disbanded, according to the student-run newspaper, the Brown Daily Herald.

They’ve been here before.

Columbia students protesting South Africa’s apartheid policies against racial segregation in the 1980s called on the school to cut financial ties with companies doing business in the country.

Columbia ultimately voted to sell most of its shares in companies linked to South Africa. Other colleges followed suit.