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June 25, 2024

Pitzer discloses $1.6M in defense and aerospace investments, a month after telling SJP it will not divest

Gould previously said Pitzer was “likely” invested in Boeing, the largest U.S. manufacturer of munitions supplied to Zionist regime

Undercurrents staff
SJP's Pitzer Encampment demands included full divestment from Israel and weapons manufacturers, academic boycott of Israeli universities and dropping the disciplinary charges against students arrested at the April 5 Alexander Hall sit-in.

Pitzer College Board of Trustees Chair Don Gould told SJP student representatives on May 3 that the college would not consider divestment, but would disclose the college’s “holdings in military and weapons manufacturers” by June 30.

On June 24, Gould sent an email to all students sharing that 1.8% of its stocks are in “Aerospace & Defense” companies, which include “‘military and weapons’ manufacturers.” That comes out to $1.6 million out of Pitzer’s $177.4 million endowment, which also includes non-stock investments, Gould said.

Gould also said the board was “reviewing its policy on endowment disclosure” and would “provide more information on this in September.”

At the May 3 meeting, Gould said that Pitzer was “likely” invested in Boeing, the biggest U.S. manufacturer of munitions supplied to the Zionist regime, and promised to disclose other defense investment. 

Gould, along with Pitzer President Strom Thacker, met with Claremont SJP after they erected a Gaza solidarity encampment on April 26 on Pitzer College’s mounds, disrupted an alumni weekend concert on April 27 and moved the encampment onto the commencement lawn on April 29. Throughout the week, students also sent letters to Gould inviting him to visit the encampment to discuss demands for divestment. Since launching the encampment, Claremont SJP demanded the Board of Trustees to disclose and divest from companies aiding the ongoing genocide in Palestine and weapons manufacturers. 

On April 30, Pitzer President Strom Thacker invited SJP students representatives Bella Jacobs PZ ‘24 and LM PZ ‘26, who requested to be identified with their initials for safety concerns, with Gould. 

On May 3, Gould and Thacker met with the two student representatives, as well as then-Pitzer Senate President, and Professor of English and World Literature Amanda Lagji at the Broad Center. Students said the Senate President and Professor Laijii mostly took notes during the meeting and kept the conversation from getting off track. 

Gould says meeting was not negotiation on divestment

According to the SJP students, Gould started the meeting by telling them “this is not a negotiation. We are not negotiating.” Gould said that they would not be discussing divestment, but instead explaining how the endowment worked and what investments Gould would disclose to the public. 

Both Jacobs and LM recalled Gould saying, “We’re not here to talk about what’s happening in the Middle East and the conflict, whatever you want to call it, apartheid. We’re not here to talk about that.” 

“What’s happening isn’t a conflict. What is happening is apartheid. That’s why we’re here to talk about divestment,” Jacobs responded. 

Both Jacobs and LM said they were both shocked at Gould’s dismissal of the genocide in Gaza, where the Zionist regime had killed over 35,088 Gazans since Oct. 7 and proceeded to attack eastern Rafah later that week. 

Gould confirms Pitzer’s investment in military and defense companies 

In the meeting, Gould confirmed Pitzer College is invested in military and weapons manufacturers and offered Boeing as an example of a probable investment.  

From 2021-2023, Boeing was the top U.S. manufacturer of missiles and munitions delivered to the Zionist regime. Specifically, the U.S. has delivered nearly 3000 of Boeing’s GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs to Israel and an estimated 3,000 Boeing Joint Direct Attack munitions. Recently, a CNN investigation found that the Zionist regime used California-made Boeing GBU-39 small diameter bombs to strike in the Rafah tent massacre on May 26, 2024. 

Gould also confirmed to SJP students that the college was invested in other companies in military and weapons manufacturing companies, but questioned whether or not the board would consider them defense companies at all. 

“You guys may think it’s a weapon [manufacturer], but [Boeing also makes] the plane you’re gonna take home at the end of the year.” Jacobs recalled Gould saying. 

When pushed on divestment, Gould also appeared to deflect questions on Pitzer’s investment in military and defense companies. 

“He was like ‘If you guys are so interested in the military and investments, maybe we should talk about if we should have security. Should we have a military?’” LM recalled to Undercurrents.

LM told Undercurrents that they asked Gould in response, “Is it the role of Pitzer College to fund the military?”

Both Jacobs and LM told Undercurrents that Gould seemed to “shut down” attempts for further negotiations on student demands, even when pitched by President Thacker. 

Thacker said that Pitzer would disclose its investments in weapons manufacturers, meeting the encampment’s disclosure demand, if students decamped by 5 p.m. that day. But before students could respond, Gould patted Thacker on the back and corrected him telling students that they would get disclosure either way, the students said. 

Students asked Gould if the college would further disclose or divest if students presented a list of ten target companies, which was a tactic recently used by Pomona College professors in a resolution calling for the college to divest from the BDS’ “divestment and exclusion” list. 

Students also brought up the American Friends Service Committee, which offers specific steps universities can take to divest from companies complicit or responsible for the ongoing genocide in Gaza.

Gould declined both of these and other offers, and initially said that Pitzer had legal obligations to not disclose some of its investments. According to both student representatives, Gould said he would disclose as many names of military and weapons manufacturing companies within Pitzer’s endowment that he legally could by June 30. The email Gould sent on June 24 did not disclose the names of any companies Pitzer is invested in.

Gould refuses to divest because it would cost “entire endowment” just ten years after divesting 99% of endowment from fossil fuels 

Pitzer was one of the first private colleges to divest from fossil fuels in 2014 — but this didn’t necessarily mean that the college would strive to set precedent in other areas for divestment, explained Gould. Gould said “divestment has to be a rare step.” 

In 2017, Pitzer became the founding investor in a “Fossil-Free Global Equity Index Fund” managed by BlackRock. According to Pitzer’s 2017 announcement, the fund was Environmental, Social Governance (ESG)-focused and fossil fuel-free. Gould said to students that divestment from fossil fuels has been financially beneficial to the college and “the endowment has been better since that.” 

During the meeting, Gould claimed that the college could not disclose or divest from weapons manufacturers because of this group fund.

“The College does not select the individual stocks that make up the fund’s portfolio, and as only one of many investors in the fund, Pitzer cannot dictate changes to the fund’s underlying holdings,” Gould said in a schoolwide email after the meeting. 

“If we were to divest [from companies complicit in Zionist genocide], we would have to sell the entire endowment,” Gould told SJP students at the meeting.

Gould said doing so would be unreasonable, but he himself oversaw the divestment of 99 percent of Pitzer’s endowment in 2014, when the college divested from fossil fuels.

“Divestment would align our actions with our values and mission. To me it was really that simple, even though the issue overall is pretty complicated,” Gould told the LA Times in a 2014 interview. 

“Regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict specifically, the Board has deliberately not taken actions that could imply the College has adopted an institutional position on the conflict,” Gould said in his email. 

Gould said the board will not divest, even if college council votes for it 

Pitzer’s college council serves as Pitzer’s primary legislative body and is composed of faculty, students and staff. In the past decade, the college council has voted twice to pass resolutions to suspend Pitzer’s study abroad program with Haifa university. In both times the resolutions passed, they were vetoed respectively by Pitzer presidents Melvin Oliver in 2018 and Strom Thacker in 2024. 

Student negotiators said they wanted to get a commitment from trustees to respect to college governance. At the closing of the meeting, students had asked if the board would divest if there were to ever be a college council vote on divestment. Gould said no. 

“The board will never be dictated by the college council’s votes,” Gould said.

“Even though the BoTs say now that they don’t want to negotiate divestment, doesn’t mean that we won’t make them,” said LM to Undercurrents. “We know that divestment is possible because of the fossil fuel campaign and the earlier South Africa campaign and we’re sure they said they wouldn’t divest then either.”

Students also emphasized that Palestinian liberation was not a new topic or a divided issue within the Pitzer community. 

“The Pitzer community (students, alumni, staff and faculty) have not only voiced their support for the Palestinian liberation movement this past year but have consistently taken part in boycott/divestment campaigns dating back to 2015,” LM told Undercurrents. “We know from our several iterations of our Suspend Haifa campaign and earlier student fund divestment efforts that admin don’t immediately concede but we will be back every year until we fully sever ties with israel and the weapons manufacturing industry.” 

Another SJP member, who was originally a part of the encampment’s negotiation team but could not make it to the meeting due to a scheduling conflict, pointed out Pitzer’s continued denial of the ongoing genocide through its language in community wide emails. 

“They are still refusing to call it apartheid, which has now been recognized by the ICJ. So the school not only thinks that they know better than the literal United Nations, but it’s just blatantly racist,” said the SJP member. “They’re perpetuating this dehumanizing narrative of Palestinians by not acknowledging the war crimes that are happening against them.”

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Thanks for reading Undercurrents

Undercurrents reports on labor, Palestine liberation, prison abolition and other community organizing at and around the Claremont Colleges.

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