Alyssa Chang, Contributing Photographer

On Wednesday, the University announced that it would not divest from military weapons manufacturing amid efforts by student organizers on both sides of the issue.

The University’s announcement comes after a months-long advocacy campaign — from various students and coalitions who favor divestment — that has culminated in both an ongoing sit-in demonstration on Beinecke Plaza, which drew about 150 protesters at its height, and an ongoing hunger strike with 14 student participants.

The University’s decision — which also included a commitment to divesting from assault weapons manufacturers that retail to the general public — was met with widespread backlash from protesters who have been demanding that Yale divest from military weapons manufacturers. Yale’s rationale is that military weapons manufacturing does not satisfy “the threshold of grave social injury, a prerequisite for divestment,” per the Wednesday release.

“I am disgusted and appalled by the [Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility’s] decision not to recommend divestment. How much death does Yale money need to fund before this genocide is considered a ‘grave social injury?’” Ky Miller YSE ’25 wrote to the News. “I truly hope that the ACIR will reconsider this decision in light of the ongoing social turmoil, violence, and death of the Palestinian people — social injuries that are a direct result of Yale’s investments in mass weapons manufacturers.”

Yale’s decision came on the same day as other advocates also expressed their opposition to divestment directly to the University. 

On Wednesday morning — before Yale released its announcement — Eytan Israel ’26 and other co-authors sent a letter to University President Peter Salovey in opposition to calls for divestment from military weapons manufacturing. 

Israel himself also circulated the letter among Yale affiliates to collect signatures. It received signatures from over 130 students and parents, alumni and faculty as of late Wednesday evening. 

An organizer who favors divestment — and requested anonymity due to safety concerns — added that since November, students have sent more than 2,000 letters to Salovey and the ACIR calling for divestment from military weapons manufacturers.

“Our position doesn’t require endorsing every targeting decision the IDF has made in Gaza; it doesn’t require supporting the structure of their campaign against Hamas; it doesn’t require supporting any policy of the current Israeli government,” Israel said. “Our position is based on the realization that the liberal democracies of the world – the U.S., Ukraine and Israel among them – face recurrent and serious military threats from their non- and anti-democratic neighbors and therefore require the means to defend themselves, and democracy itself, militarily.”  

Pro-divestment organizers intend to keep protesting

In the Schwarzman Center, where protesters temporarily moved from the Beinecke Plaza due to rain, student organizers read aloud the University’s statement on its decision while protestors chanted “shame.”

“What are we telling the trustees? If there’s no justice, there’s no peace,” protesters shouted. 

The University’s Board of Trustees, which made the decision following the ACIR’s review, will meet this Saturday. 

In a post on the Instagram account “Occupy Beinecke,” the protesters wrote that they intend to “continue to occupy” Beinecke Plaza until the trustees “themselves commit to disclosure and divestment or publicly justify their failure to do so.” The group wrote that they refuse to accept a decision from the ACIR — “a body with no decision-making authority.” 

The ACIR is an advisory body to the Yale Corporation Committee on Investor Responsibility — or CCIR — which consists of two students, two alumni, two faculty and two university employees. It does not have official authority to amend the University’s investment policies. According to the University announcement, the ACIR makes recommendations to the CCIR, which in turn advises the Board of Trustees. The Board makes the final investment decisions. 

“Our occupation has grown every day because the Yale community knows that the indiscriminate bombing of thousands of civilians constitutes ‘grave social injury’, even if the ACIR has convinced itself otherwise,” wrote Lumisa Bista ’25, one of the protesters. 

Disagreements over Yale’s involvement, Israeli right to self-defense

Organizers on both sides of the issue are divided on the extent of the University’s monetary investment in companies that supplied the state of Israel with weapons. 

According to Yale’s February 2024 SEC filings, the University holds over 6,400 shares of the iShares Core S&P Total U.S. Stock Market ETF, with a total value of around $680,000. It also holds 342,000 shares of Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets ETF, totaling over $14 million. Both the iShares ETF and the Vanguard ETF — which are exchange-traded funds with investments in a slate of various companies — can directly fund manufacturers that sell weapons to Israel, such as Boeing, or companies that operate in Israel’s defense and weapons manufacturing sectors, such as Larsen & Toubro Ltd. 

Yale publicly discloses 1 percent of its endowment investments, so the full extent to which the University has financial holdings tied to weapons manufacturers remains unclear. Even in that 1 percent, it is difficult to determine exactly how much of Yale’s investments directly reach such companies, as third parties manage both exchange-traded funds. 

To Samuel Rosenberg ’26, the student protests for the University’s divestment exaggerate the scale of the University’s investment in weapons manufacturing. 

“The degree of investment is fairly insignificant,” Rosenberg said. “So it’s sort of blowing out of proportion something that’s not actually of particularly large material consequence.” 

Rosenberg said that the University’s investments are several steps removed from the military aid Israel receives. 

“Yale has one ETF amongst thousands of holdings,” Israel added, referring exclusively to one of the at least two exchange-traded funds in which Yale invests. “This ETF has three companies, out of hundreds, that deal with the defense industry. Within that minuscule amount, an even smaller portion of this is manufacturing offensive weapons being used in the war in Gaza. If four degrees of separation from what some perceive as immoral were the standard for divestment, Yale would need to divest from all of its holdings.” 

While Israel described one ETF in which Yale invests — citing coverage from the News earlier this week that referred only to iShares — the 1 percent of endowment information that Yale publicly discloses includes holdings in at least one other such fund. These two ETFs are tied to dozens of weapons manufacturing companies involved with Israeli military defense.

Adam Nussbaum ’25, one of the protesters on Beinecke Plaza, pointed out this discrepancy.  

“The S&P 500 is only the tip of the iceberg,” Nussbaum wrote to the News. “This is about Yale’s direct ties to weapons manufacturing via shell companies managed by Wall Street asset managers, which they refuse to disclose to the Yale community. Yale should not be complicit in the destruction of educational institutions in Gaza or anywhere in the world.” 

Students also remain divided on the implications of Yale’s investments. Both Rosenberg and Israel said that Yale’s continued investment in weapons manufacturing would provide the state of Israel and other “countries of the free world” with the ability to defend themselves. In response, a Beinecke protester — who requested anonymity for safety concerns — said that the price of self-defense was incomparable to the cost of Palestinian lives in Gaza. 

The student disagreed with the necessity of U.S. involvement in the military defense of other countries, such as Israel and Ukraine. 

“As Americans, we have funneled billions of dollars into creating and protecting the Zionist settler colonial project,” the protester wrote to the News. “To this I say, yes, divest! Divest from the defense of Israel, Ukraine, America, and more. Forty billion dollars and God are worth the same to me, which is to say I think they are both worth absolutely nothing compared to a single Palestinian life.” 

While Rosenberg opposes divestment, he said that he does not “endorse” or “pursue” the suffering of the Palestinian people. 

Though Rosenberg hopes for an eventual ceasefire, he said that it would have to come with certain conditions, including Hamas returning all Israeli hostages and the surrender of its power in Gaza. 

During its Oct. 7 attack on the state of Israel, Hamas killed 1,200 people and took more than 250 people as hostages. In response, the Israeli military began an offensive in Gaza and has so far killed more than 33,700 Palestinians, the Associated Press reported on April 15 based on estimates from the Gaza Health Ministry. The Israeli government reports that Hamas still holds more than 130 hostages, of whom 36 are confirmed dead.

“As we say in the letter, war is awful and terrible, and not something that really I ever want anyone to have to endure … that is something that I hope does not get lost,” said Rosenberg. “I think that it is important to recognize that Israel, as does any country, has the right to defend itself and, on Oct. 7, was put into a position in which it needed to defend itself against a terror organization that has destroyed and caused the loss of life for many, many, many Israelis and Palestinians.” 

The Yale Corporation is the University’s 17-member board of trustees.

Correction, April 18: This article has been updated to amend repeated misspellings of Rosenberg’s last name.

Update, April 18: This article has been updated to include additional comment from pro-divestment organizers.

Yurii Stasiuk is a Managing Editor of the Yale Daily News. He previously covered City Hall as a beat reporter. Originally from Kalush, Ukraine, he is a sophomore in Jonathan Edwards College majoring in History and Political Science.
Yolanda Wang (she/her) covers endowment, finances, and donations. She is a sophomore in Davenport College majoring in political science.