Courtesy of Adham Hussein

On Feb. 16, over 200 protesters led by the Yale Endowment Justice Coalition — or EJC —gathered in Beinecke Plaza to demand that the Yale Corporation disclose and divest its investments in military weapons manufacturers. At the demonstration, student organizers announced that members of the Yale Corporation were meeting concurrently and in private at the Humanities Quadrangle. The demonstration then moved to gather across the street from HQ. 

The demonstration comes amid monthslong calls from students for divestment from weapons manufacturers. At the same time, a University review of the investments in weapons manufacturing is “nearing its conclusion,” according to the University spokesperson.

“The coalition that organized this action is unprecedented in the campus organizing around both Palestine and weapons divestment thus far,” Naina Agrawal-Hardin ’25, an organizer for EJC, said. 

At this point, Agrawal-Hardin said, organizers have felt that they have “exhausted” every means of communication, such as sending over 1,800 letters to the Yale Corporation and attending meetings with the Yale Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility. 

The protest was co-organized by Yale Jews For Ceasefire, Yalies4Palestine, Graduate Students for Palestine and Law Students for Justice in Palestine. Over 25 other organizations across Yale College and the graduate and professional schools, New Haven and Connecticut signed onto the EJC’s demands.

In 2018, the Yale Corporation Committee on Investor Responsibility adopted a policy banning investments in retail outlets that market and sell assault weapons to the general public due to the “grave social injury” they cause. The CCIR did not issue regulations on investments in weapons manufacturing. Student organizers from the EJC criticized Yale’s continued investment in weapons manufacturers that sell to militaries and governments. 

“As Israel continues its violent assault on Rafah, Yale’s continued financial entanglement with the war industry is a moral failure,” Lumisa Bista ’25 said. “It’s time for the Trustees to finish what they started in 2018 and divest from all weapons.”

In the Oct. 7 attack against Israel, Hamas killed 1,200 people and took over 240 people as hostages. Israel responded with a formal declaration of war against Hamas and a military offensive in Gaza. According to Israel, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, Hamas still held more than 130 people hostage as of Feb. 15. As of Feb. 19, Israeli attacks have killed at least 29,000 Palestinians in Gaza, according to the territory’s Health Ministry. 

Last Monday, in an effort to free Hamas-held hostages, Israel launched airstrikes on Rafah, a city in the southern region of the Gaza Strip filled with more than one million Palestinians seeking refuge from Israeli attacks. CNN reported yesterday that Israel plans to expand its military operation in Rafah if Hamas does not free all hostages by the start of Ramadan.   

Yale’s November 2023 SEC filings reveal that the University holds over 6,500 shares of iShares Core S&P Total U.S. Stock Market ETF, an exchange-traded fund managed by Blackrock that invests in major weapons manufacturers such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon. The iShares website notes that this fund “does not seek to follow a sustainable, impact or ESG investment strategy.” 

According to the SEC filings, the University also holds more than 342,000 shares in Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets ETF, which is exposed to weapons manufacturers that hold joint ventures with Israeli defense companies. Weapon Free Funds, a search platform that tracks whether investments are used to finance military weapons manufacturers, gives the Vanguard Emerging Markets ETF a grade of C, meaning the fund is “invested in nuclear weapons and/or controversial weapons below the threshold of 2.5%.”

Based on its preliminary research, the EJC wrote on its Instagram page that Yale does not make public where it invests 99 percent of its $40.7 billion endowment

In addition to research into public records, the EJC’s demands are aligned with student activism on other campuses and with precedent at Yale, per Agrawal-Hardin. 

“[The EJC’s demands are] usually a combination of what has proven successful or what is being demanded at peer institutions,” said Agrawal-Hardin. “We want to stand in solidarity with other student movements for ethical investments. It’s responsive to what precedents have been set at Yale. So for example, the military weapons manufacturer divestment demand is a response to the 2018 divestment from assault weapons retailers.”

In November, University President Peter Salovey told the News that the ACIR, which advises the CCIR, may revisit its policies around investments in weapons manufacturing. In an email to the News, Yale’s spokesperson wrote that this review is now underway.

“A University review of calls to extend that policy to cover manufacturers who effectively retail to the general public is nearing its conclusion, at which point the results will be shared with the community,” the spokesperson wrote. “The ACIR is separately aware of more recent community concerns about military weapons manufacturing, and its standard review of such issues is underway.”

Yale College Council President Julian Suh-Toma ’25 and Vice President Maya Fonkeu ’25, who signed onto the demands in a personal capacity, also brought the demands to the attention of the Faculty Senate during a meeting on Thursday, prior to the demonstration on Friday. 

“As student leaders who have a finger on the pulse of the university, we felt that it was somewhat our duty to share with the Faculty Senate this part of advocacy that was going on on campus,” said Suh-Toma, “especially because we know that so many student organizations on campus had signed on, and it was a large coalition.”

According to Suh-Toma, members of the Faculty Senate generated “collaborative” ideas to engage with the issue of divestment, including hosting a debate or holding broader conversations in the Yale community about Yale’s holdings and investment practices.

In January, the University of Michigan faculty’s Senate Assembly passed a resolution for U-M “to divest from companies that invest in Israel’s current military campaign in Gaza.” 

EJC organizers also criticized the Yale Corporation for what they called a lack of transparency and obstinacy to student attempts at communication. 

The Yale Corporation’s contact form notes that “the trustees will not review messages related to ethical investing issues.” It instead asks that these messages about ethical investing be directed to the ACIR.

“Yale bears lux et veritas as its motto but keeps its community in the dark about the full extent of its investments in military weapons,” Jews for Ceasefire organizer Adam Nussbaum ’25 said. “We deserve to know whether our education is being funded with investments that kill.”

The News reached out to members of the Corporation for comment but received no response.

In a recent press release, the EJC stated that “sources told the EJC that trustees met in a remote location for the rest of the afternoon to avoid student demonstrators.” Yale’s spokesperson denied these claims.

According to the spokesperson, trustees followed a “planned schedule of visits with students and faculty” at various locations on campus throughout the day. Yale also confirmed in an email to the News that trustees met at the Humanities Quadrangle as well as the Wu Tsai Institute.

The Board of Trustees will meet next on April 20. 

Correction, Feb. 20: This article has been updated to amend an attribution error.

Yolanda Wang (she/her) covers endowment, finances, and donations. She is a sophomore in Davenport College majoring in political science.