USF students supporting human rights in Palestine have sparked a controversy by purchasing a billboard near the Tampa campus criticizing the university’s foundation for ignoring their petition to divest from companies profiting from the Israeli occupation.
During a meeting last May the USF Foundation quickly rejected a proposal by Students for Justice in Palestine at USF that was supported by the signatures of 10,000 students.
Their billboard on Fowler Avenue asks the university to stop its investments “in Apartheid Israel.”
To find out more about the billboard WMNF News interviewed Zaid Dabus, a first-year student from Tampa majoring in finance who became the interim president of SJP at USF this semester.
In a message after the interview, SJP said the billboard cost “just over $2,000.”
WMNF asked the university for an interview with someone from the USF Foundation but a spokesperson said “No one is available for an interview” but that board members received detailed information about the petition drive before it was voted down. USF also emailed a statement (below).
below is the full statement from USF
On May 5, 2014 a group from USF’s Students for Justice in Palestine presented their petition to members of the USF Foundation leadership, including the CEO and Foundation Board Chair. In an over one-hour presentation they reviewed their petition and explained their objectives. The petition and accompanying materials were then circulated to members of the USF Foundation Investment Committee. The item was placed on the committee’s agenda for consideration during its meeting on May 28, 2014. At that time the committee passed a resolution and issued the statement below. Since the issue was taken up and considered by the USF Foundation, it will not be taken up again or voted on at future meetings.
The Investment Committee of the USF Foundation has been presented with a student petition and supporting materials from the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). The petition and all supporting materials presented by SJP have been reviewed by the members of the Foundation Investment Committee.
The USF Foundation supports a public university, where free speech and the collegial exchange of ideas and expression of differing opinions may be offered in civil dialogue. The rights of individuals and groups to voice their opinions on topics, including social, environmental and political issues are respected, both as part of this exchange of ideas and as part of the academic process.
The Foundation’s mission is to provide financial resources to the University, guided by a fiduciary responsibility to manage the endowment in the best fiscal interests of the USF System. In meeting this fiduciary obligation, the Foundation’s investment policy adheres to the Florida Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act (Florida Statute 617.2104), the University’s Investment Policy, and the advice of professional investment advisors. Through prudent investment in a diversified portfolio the USF Foundation endowment has provided significant support to the University.
The USF Foundation investment policy, process and investments will continue to be guided by its mission, fiduciary responsibilities and state or federal law or regulation. The USF Foundation will not divest investments or alter the investment policy or process based on requests from individuals or groups.