University and pro-Palestinian student representatives discuss University investments in second meeting

By Anoushka Mundey

Released on 31st May, the University’s statement emphasises their ethical investment policy in response to the pro-Palestinian Student encampment on the Palace Green. The statement focuses on the second meeting between University Representatives, Dr Mahmood and Sam Dale, and the representatives of the Encampment. 

Dr Mahmood, the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Equality, Inclusion, and Diversity, and Sam Dale, the Director of Student Support and Well-being, met with the Student encampment for the second time.

Whilst the number of tents on the Palace Green has multiplied since 10th May, the encampment’s demands remain unchanged. Palatinate has previously reported on their first meeting and the Encampment’s demands.  

In the meeting, Dr Mahmood delineated Durham University’s ethical investment policy, wherein “the policy is consistently applied by our Chief Financial Officer and our Finance Committee of the University Council, on which there is Durham Student’s Union representation”. The statement continues “they [the fund managers] are tasked to manage the investments of the University… but first and foremost this must be achieved by investing within the University’s ethical investment policy”. 

The investment policy itself states that the University “will adopt investment strategies that seek to minimise and ideally eliminate irresponsible corporate behaviour”. The policy focuses on social, political and environmental issues, such as, “armament sales to military regimes”, “human rights violations” and “environmental degradation”.

We, Durham Students for Palestine, hope to receive more concrete responses to our demands and a timeline for them to be met

Durhamstudents4pal

On the 3rd June, the Encampment’s Instagram (durhamstudents4pal) also released a statement about the meeting on their Instagram. They stated that, whilst the University has assured that they have no direct links with arms companies, as their investments do abide by the University’s ethical investment policy, the encampment asks for “comprehensive information on the University’s links with companies on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) list, or its partnerships with Israeli Academic institutions”. 

The SU President, Dan Lonsdale, previously reflected on this demand in a statement made prior to the encampment, asking for “a review and report on all University investments and the adoption of a new responsible investment and partnerships policy, like the University of York.” 

In the University statement, it explained that Dr Mahmood is “committed to hearing more from the students and to sharing their views with Finance Committee”, in which he’ll share a document where the Student encampment can outline their views and demands in preparation for a meeting with the University financial team later in June. The statement continues, “Dr Mahmood also committed, on behalf of the University, to exploring the sharing of a list of investments made via third-party fund managers”. 

Although the University stated the meeting was agreed to focus on investments, the Encampment’s Instagram reiterated their remaining demands “that include calling for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire, refraining from advertising arms companies to the student population through its career services, and explicitly advocating for Palestinian rights and safeguarding academic freedoms”.

The University’s statement continued to highlight the University’s current actions and commitment to supporting students and staff, such as its financial support for current and future Durham Palestine Educational Trust (DPET) scholars.  

DPET provides scholarships for “Palestinian graduates to study for Masters degrees at Durham University”; each scholarship costs DPET £13,000. In the academic year 2023-24, there are five DPET scholars. Dr Mahmood attended a workshop with DPET “to develop further proposals for building practical support for educators and students in Palestine”. 

Durham University confirmed its commitment to “rebuilding higher education” in Gaza

In response, the Encampment argued that “despite its [the University’s] concerns over student welfare, the University has yet to commit to unequivocally safeguard its Palestinian and Pro-Palestinian Students to speak freely about the ongoing genocide”. This demand is contextualised by the use of police by other UK Universities, as seen recently at Newcastle University, where students were arrested, alongside Lancaster and Oxford. Additionally, Sheffield University gave their students a notice to remove their encampment by 3rd June. 

Durham University confirmed its commitment to “rebuilding higher education” in Gaza, where “student involvement in these developments is important and welcome”. It goes on to maintain that the University is committed to “continued dialogue with students and to meeting again the week commencing Monday 3 June”. 

The encampment also intends to continue this dialogue with the University in “the two further meetings scheduled for the upcoming week”, in which they “hope to receive more concrete responses to our demands and a timeline for them to be met”. 

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3 thoughts on “University and pro-Palestinian student representatives discuss University investments in second meeting

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  • Durham University was one of 82 British universities that the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP) wrote to in May alerting them of potential criminal complicity over Israeli investments. Whether or not it’s technically true that the university has “no direct links with arms companies,” I would want senior management to address the ICJP’s concerns and get specific about what they have changed since this notification or why they think ICJP is wrong.

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