Students call for Yale Corp to divest from weapons manufacturers in front of Woodbridge Hall
During the morning of Friday, Dec. 1, students unfurled a 60-foot banner outside Woodbridge Hall ahead of the Yale Corporation’s scheduled visit to campus this weekend.
Ben Raab, Contributing Photographer
More than 20 demonstrators gathered outside Woodbridge Hall early Friday morning to tape a 60-foot banner to the building’s front door and call for the Yale Corporation — the University’s principal governing body — to divest Yale’s endowment from weapons manufacturers.
The banner read “Yale Corp Divest From Weapons” and was rolled out over the steps and onto the building’s walkway. It displayed the names of thousands of Palestinians who have been killed in Gaza during the Israel-Hamas war.
Demonstrators stood in front of the building with signs reading “Divest Now!” and “Yale Divest.” One banner read “It’s Your Yale. They’re You’re Bombs”
“To kick off the Yale Corporation’s discussions this weekend, we’re delivering our demands to their front doorstep,” Lumisa Bista ’24, a member of the Endowment Justice Coalition, told the News. “Under the University’s own ethical investment framework, Yale should immediately divest from weapons. Companies like Boeing and Lockheed Martin have committed ‘grave social injury’ by supplying weapons used to kill over 10,000 civilians in Gaza, as well as countless others worldwide.”
Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing at least 1,200 people and taking 240 as hostages, according to Israel’s Foreign Ministry as reported by the Washington Post. Israel responded with airstrikes and a ground invasion of Gaza, killing more than 13,300 Palestinians according to figures from the Health Ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza, the Associated Press reported. The Gazan death toll is likely higher, according to the AP, as officials have infrequently updated the count since Nov. 11.
Friday’s demonstration came just after the end of a pause in fighting, which began on Nov. 24 and lasted seven days. The temporary ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas was initiated to allow for the release of some of the hostages taken in Hamas’ Oct. 7 terror attack and to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza, according to the Associated Press. That ceasefire ended in the early hours of Dec. 1. The war resumed with Israeli airstrikes and bombs in Gaza, after Israel accused Hamas of launching a rocket into Israel and having thus violated the ceasefire’s terms in its final minutes.
The demonstration also comes on the morning of the Yale Corporation’s scheduled visit to campus for meetings that will last through the weekend.
“Grave social injury” is a concept explored in “The Ethical Investor: Universities and Corporate Responsibility” — a book on institutional investor responsibility published by the Yale Press in 1972. The Yale Corporation adopted the guidelines outlined in “The Ethical Investor” in 1972.
Under the Yale Corporation’s guidelines for proxy voting and divestment, “not all findings of social injury or grave social injury give rise to immediate shareholder engagement and/or divestment.”
On Nov. 2, University President Peter Salovey told the News that the University is “revisiting” its policy on weapons manufacturing under the University’s ethical investment framework. In 2018, Yale divested from assault weapons retailers, citing violence in communities across America.
The Yale endowment owns 6,564 shares — worth $621,171 — of iShares, an exchange-traded fund managed by Blackrock. According to the Blackrock website, the ETF holds shares in Lockheed Martin and Boeing. CNN reported on Oct. 18 that the iShares U.S. Aerospace & Defense ETF tracks companies including Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman and that the fund had surged by about 7 percent between when Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7 and Oct. 18.
Since Thursday night, community members have sent over 600 letters to the Corporation calling for divestment from all weapons manufacturing via an online campaign sponsored by the Endowment Justice Coalition.
“The money that funds our education should not come from the murder of civilians,” Tara Bhat ‘25, an attendee, said. “Hundreds of outraged students have mobilized for divestment in the past month, and we will continue to mobilize until Yale adopts a policy against war profiteering.”
A University spokesperson pointed the News to its 2018 policy requiring Yale to divest from retail outlets that market and sell assault weapons to the general public.
“The Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility is studying whether there are grounds to revisit the policy under the university’s ethical investment framework,” the University told the News.
Three Yale security officers arrived at the scene less than an hour after the sign was put up but did not immediately take it down. Yale police Lieutenant Jay Jones arrived at the scene minutes later along with other officers.
Jones confirmed to the News that officers would allow the banner to remain so long as it did not obstruct entry and exit to the building, which he said would be a fire hazard.
The demonstration is the first of multiple scheduled to take place Friday, Dec. 1. Student group Yalies4Palestine announced a rally to “Divest Now” on its Instagram scheduled for noon.
Woodbridge Hall was completed in 1901.
Update, Dec 1: This article has been updated to include a statement from the University pointing the News to its 2018 policy requiring Yale to divest from retail outlets that publicly market and sell assault weapons.