Chancellor Birgeneau reacts to ASUC divestment bill related to disputed territories in the Middle East

On April 28, the ASUC Senate upheld a veto of a bill that called for the UC Berkeley administration and the UC Regents to divest from any investment in companies with business interests which support “the occupation of the Palestinian territories” by Israel. Previously, the bill had been passed by the Senate and then vetoed by the ASUC president. In the statement below, UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau reacts to the debate.

Since the ASUC Senate passed Bill 118 “A Bill in Support of ASUC Divestment from War Crimes,” followed by the ASUC President’s veto of the bill, my office has been inundated with more than 28,000 e-mails, some arguing passionately that I should make a statement denouncing the bill, others calling fervently for me to celebrate and applaud it. Statements have come from our faculty, who have weighed in with their expertise and eloquence; messages have poured in from staff, students and alumni, and from people and organizations from around the world.

What has become abundantly clear is how deeply divided our campus community is on this difficult and complex issue. As chancellor, a pillar of my vision for UC Berkeley has been to create a campus where equity and inclusion are fundamental values that sustain our principles of community and allow freedom of expression to occur through civilized, informed debate.

The campus must be prepared to accept a diversity of views, and all of our students must feel that the campus is an inclusive environment for them, one in which they have the freedom to express their views without fear of intimidation.

While last night’s vote brings this matter to a close within the ASUC for the time being, we remain concerned about the lingering effects of the debate in our campus community. We hope and expect that the ongoing discussion and dialogue about the conflict in the Middle East will happen in a manner that respects and acknowledges the views and beliefs of others.

Robert J. Birgeneau
Chancellor, UC Berkeley