UBC president says endowment fund doesn’t ‘directly own’ stocks targeted by divestment demands

UBC President Benoit-Antoine Bacon said in a statement that the university’s endowment fund doesn’t directly own any stocks that are the target of divestment demands and that UBC’s focus is on ensuring the community’s safety amid the ongoing encampment.

UBC community members began an encampment in solidarity with Palestine on MacInnes Field on Monday, April 29 at 5 a.m.

“Students are looking at a world in crisis and at their core, the campus protests are seeking the end of violence in Israel and Palestine,” wrote Bacon in yesterday's UBC Broadcast message.

Bacon said UBC values freedom of expression and respects peaceful protests, and that the university is “actively monitoring the situation and prioritizing the safety of all our community members and visitors to campus.” 

He also said protest actions “must be conducted with respect for others and within the boundaries of UBC policy and the law.” 

Endowment fund ‘does not directly own’ stocks in companies targeted by divestment demands, president says

One of the encampment’s demands is that UBC divest from companies complicit in Palestinian human rights violations.

In 2022, UBC rejected similar calls from student groups to divest and endorse the boycott, divest and sanction (BDS) movement which advocates for removing economic support for Israel. In December 2023, Bacon reaffirmed UBC does not support BDS.

In the Broadcast message, Bacon said UBC’s endowment fund “does not directly own any stocks in the companies identified by the movement.” Instead, "capital is held in pooled funds and managed by external investment managers.”

The "identified companies," according to Bacon, account for about 0.28 per cent of the endowment fund. That is around $7.8 million of UBC’s $2.8 billion endowment.

According to UBC Investment Management’s 2023 Holdings Disclosure Report, UBC was invested in Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co, Siemens AG, Axa S.A, Puma SE and PepsiCo Inc. These companies are on the Palestinian BDS National Committee’s boycott list.

Bacon also said UBC is a signatory of the Principles for Responsible Investment, a United Nations-supported framework of principles that set a responsible investing standard, and that the university's investment managers adjust their investment strategies based on environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles. 

“We reject the administration’s attempts to deny their complicity in the ongoing genocide of Palestinians by the terror state of Israel,” wrote Zainab, an encampment spokesperson, in a statement to The Ubyssey. “Millions of dollars from the UBC Endowment Fund continue to flow to the genocidal Israeli occupation and UBC is still partnering with complicit Israeli universities.”

In the Broadcast message, Bacon also said the university “would welcome a respectful and robust discussion with student representatives from UBC on this issue.”

Encampment media spokespeople have said UBC has not reached out to the encampment's organizers. When asked about this on May 2, Acting Senior Director of UBC Media Relations Matthew Ramsey wrote in a statement to The Ubyssey that UBC has been “updating the UBC community (which includes students) through the campus security website and via media.” 

On May 8, Ramsey reiterated that UBC is open to speaking to organizers.

Zainab said the encampment’s organizers are not interested in negotiating their demands with UBC. 

“Our demands are clear,” wrote Zainab.