Education

U of M says less than 1% of endowment invested in companies tied to Israel

protestors wearing masks hold up pro-Palestinian signs
Pro-Palestinian protestors participate in a march at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus in Minneapolis on May 2.
Tom Baker for MPR News

The University of Minnesota on Tuesday began disclosing its investments into publicly traded companies based in or doing business with Israel including defense contractors. 

A student organizer with UMN Divest, a coalition of University of Minnesota pro-Palestinian student groups, provided MPR News with a copy of the one-page disclosure. The university confirmed the accuracy of the document. 

As of the end of March, the University has investments into 33 Israel-based companies and eight U.S. companies of interest including defense contractors, according to a statement at the top of the document. 

The document states the university’s investments into Israel-based companies and U.S. defense companies represent only a sliver of the university’s $2.27 billion endowment. 

“There is $2.4 million (or 0.11 percent of the total fund) in exposure to stocks and bonds of publicly traded Israel-domiciled companies, with an additional $2.6 million (or 0.12 percent of the total fund) in other publicly traded companies of interest, including select U.S.-based defense contractors,” the document says. 

A graph
As of the end of March, the University of Minnesota has investments into 33 Israeli-based companies and eight U.S.-based companies doing business with the Israeli military.
Courtesy image

The largest investment in an Israeli company at about $789,000 is with Nova, which is in the semiconductor industry, and the largest investment in a U.S. company at about $781,000 is with Caterpillar, a construction company that sells armored bulldozers to the Israeli military. 

All relevant investments are held “indirectly through diversified active funds and Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) aligned passive index funds.” 

The disclosure of public investments was one of the central demands made by UMN Divest, a coalition of four student organizations who set up encampments in recent weeks on the campus to protest Israel’s ongoing war in Gaza and the resulting humanitarian crisis. 

Adam Abu is a third-year undergraduate biology student at the University of Minnesota. He’s an organizer with Students for Justice in Palestine. SJP is part of UMN Divest, which has been calling on the University to divest from weapons manufacturing companies and “companies that profit from war.” 

A person stands on a bridge holding a palestinian flag
A person holds a Palestinian flag during a student and faculty walkout at the University of Minnesota to protest the clearing of a pro-Palestine solidarity encampment on April 23.
Tim Evans for MPR News

Abu says his concerns are focused on a handful of companies on the list. One of those companies is Elbit Systems, an Israel-based company which produces weapons and drones for the Israeli military.  

The disclosure shows the university shows an investment of $5,595 in Elbit Systems.  

Abu says he is also concerned with the university’s investments in U.S.-based defense companies like Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics, among others.  

The student coalition received information related only to the university’s investments in public companies. The university previously said as part of its agreement with protesters that it would provide information on public companies and that some investments “are protected by non-disclosure agreements or other legal constraints.” 

Abu says since the U’s investments in Israel-based companies are small compared with the overall size of its endowment — “like pennies to the dollar” — it should be easier to divest. 

Noting the brevity of the one-page document, Abu said, “it’s a good start towards more transparency when it comes to their investments. Obviously, there’s more work to be done.” 

“We obviously want them to disclose all their funds,” said Abu. 

UMN Divest plans to make a brief presentation in support of divestment to the university’s Board of Regents on Friday morning.  

Chalk writing on a sidewalk
Pro-Palestinian chalk art lines the sidewalk at the University of Minnesota on April 23.
Tim Evans for MPR News

Steven Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council for Minnesota & the Dakotas, says the movement for boycott and divestment is a “mechanism for the delegitimization of the state of Israel.” 

“This is just about attacking Israel and Jews. The boycotting of Jewish businesses has a long and noxious history going back before the state of Israel’s independence,” said Hunegs.  

“We hope there be no further steps taken in terms of divestment following the upcoming Board of Regents meeting,” Hunegs said. Hunegs says Jewish campus leaders also plan to present to the board this Friday. 

The University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents is scheduled to meet Thursday and Friday in the McNamara Alumni Center on the Twin Cities campus.  

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