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UBC president says endowment fund doesn’t directly own stocks targeted by protesters

VANCOUVER — The president of the University of British Columbia says its endowment fund doesn’t directly own any stocks that are the target of divestment demands by pro-Palestinian protesters who have set up an encampment on the Vancouver campus.

Benoit-Antoine Bacon says the targeted companies are instead part of “pooled funds and managed by external investment managers,” making up 0.28 per cent of the endowment fund UBC says is worth about $2.8 billion.

He says in a message posted online that the university would welcome a “respectful and robust discussion” with its students about the investments.

Bacon says the encampment that began at UBC’s MacInnes Field on May 29 now involves about 100 people and 75 tents.

He says UBC values peaceful protest but anyone expressing views about the “violence unfolding in Israel and Palestine” needs to be “exceptionally careful” how they convey their thoughts.

The UBC protests are part of a movement that has roiled academic campuses in the United States and Canada, with some, including Ontario Premier Doug Ford, calling for the encampments to end.

Protesters say they want UBC to divest from Israeli companies they say are complicit in “oppression and genocide” of Palestinians. They also want an academic boycott of Israeli universities and other institutions.

Bacon says UBC is “actively monitoring the situation” at MacInnes Field and “prioritizing the safety of all our community members and visitors.”

“It is absolutely essential that the university remains a place of reasoned debate where conflicting views can peacefully coexist. Our academic and social mission depends on it,” he says.

Bacon adds that the university’s expectations of the protesters have been “made clear.”

“I want to stress again that protest actions must be conducted with respect for others and within the boundaries of UBC policy and the law, and any action that contravenes this will be taken very seriously,” he said.

The message tells staff managers they should print it out and display it in a work common area.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 7, 2024.

The Canadian Press

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