Group decries UA’s affiliations
Companies under fire, Sander mum on issue
By Savannah Martin, April 18, 2012
President Eugene Sander has refuted an appeal by the UA No More Deaths/No Más Muertes chapter to support the organization’s three-year divestment campaign against Caterpillar, Inc. (CAT) and Motorola Inc.
Sander dismissed the chapter’s cause in a letter on March 6, one month after the chapter invited him to lend his support to the divestment campaign. He wrote that he is “not aware of any large university investments in the stocks of either of these companies that could be divested.”
Those leading the divestment campaign, however, feel they have evidence to prove that the UA has direct ties to CAT and Motorola, corporations that have been accused of violating human rights in Israel and Palestine.
“This issue has reached a legal fulcrum, and the time is now for the University of Arizona to take ethical action,” said the chapter’s letter to the president. “The human rights violations committed by Motorola and Caterpillar are occurring as we write this letter.”
The campaign charges Motorola and CAT with aiding the “horribly brutal” and “disproportional” Israeli occupation of Palestine, according to Dina Afek, a local attorney and UA alumna. Afek, who said she is Jewish, pro-Palestine and pro-Israel, signed the letter to Sander along with 20 other professors, students and volunteers.
“I think this occupation should’ve ended a long, long time ago,” she said. “Every little drop helps in my opinion.”
Human Rights Watch publicized in March of 2009 that, by providing military technology like drones and bulldozers, Motorola and CAT assisted Israeli forces during the country’s invasion of Gaza in 2008 and 2009. The invasion took 1,400 Palestinian lives.
One month later, then-columnist Gabriel M. Schivone published a piece in the Daily Wildcat about the UA’s affiliation with the two corporations, at which point the UA chapter of No More Deaths/No Más Muertes launched the divestment campaign. In the three years since, the organization has been urging the university to terminate any relationship it has to CAT and Motorola and “amassed a lengthy public record documenting the companies’ abuses,” according to the letter.
Members of the campaign investigated and found that Motorola has been providing communication technology to the University of Arizona Police Department since 1999. The department continues to use this technology today, according to Sgt. Juan Alvarez, UAPD’s public information officer.
CAT also entered a business licensing agreement with the UA for software in use by the Department of Mining and Geological Engineering in 2004. Mary Poulton, head of the department, confirmed that the agreement remains active and is slated to be renewed in 2014.
The UA maintains another financial connection to the corporations through pension funds provided by the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association — College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA-CREF), according to the campaign.
The association provides retirement plans to the UA, the UA Alumni Association and the UA Foundation. It has invested hundreds of millions in both Motorola and CAT, according to Jewish Voice for Peace, an Oakland, Calif.-based grassroots organization that is petitioning the association to sever ties with the companies.
“This is more serious because the investments are much, much deeper,” said Schivone, who is the campaign’s spokesman. “It’s not just the U of A, but the UA Foundation and the UA Alumni Association, all three of them. That’s huge.”
Sander said the UA is not “directly” invested in the corporations in the form of endowment money, so therefore there is nothing to be divested. The companies don’t have licenses to use UA trademarks, names or logos either, Sander added, so the UA is not actually using its name to endorse the companies.
“I think he’s trying to be political and walk the fine line and say something without really giving an answer,” Afek said.
As of last week, Sander had nothing further to say about the disagreement between him and UA’s No More Deaths/No Más Muertes chapter.
“I see no controversy,” he said in an email. “I am working with the appropriate UA committee and, until I get their report, I have no comment.”
The president did not specify which “UA committee” would handle the issue.
On Wednesday, the campaign sent a public records request to the university to discover whether the claims are true. The request seeks to unearth any direct investments by the UA in CAT and Motorola through endowment funds and stock holdings, as well as any indirect investments through mutual funds and pension funds.
“If our university has any association with these companies, either directly or indirectly, then we are participating in the crimes themselves,” Schivone said.
The request will be fulfilled “as promptly as circumstances permit,” in accordance with UA policy.
In the meantime, UA No More Deaths/No Más Muertes has sent a second letter to Sander, notifying him of the public records request. The letter also clarifies the group’s use of the term “investment,” saying it is “a broad term encompassing every kind of business association.”
“I don’t know of any other place in the country where a university so brazenly cozies up to a known human rights violator like Caterpillar,” Schivone said. “It’s inexcusable, and they (the university) brag about it when they should be ashamed.”