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Following campus protests, Portland State commits to evaluate financial relationships

Protesters hold signs and a Palestinian flag
Kristyna Wentz-Graff
A small group gathers in Portland State University’s South Park Blocks, April 26, 2024 in support of Palestinians in Gaza and in protest of Portland State University’s ties with companies that have contracts with Israel.

After several disruptive protests over the war in Gaza on Portland State University’s campus — including a multi-day occupation of the university library — PSU President Ann Cudd is making a commitment to take a critical look at the university’s financial investments and partnerships with businesses. In an announcement to the PSU community Friday, Cudd said a new committee will review the university’s existing investments and partnerships and make recommendations to ensure these partnerships are aligned with PSU’s mission.

The committee will take the place of a previously announced public forum in which the ethics of PSU’s relationship with Boeing would be debated. That event was scheduled for June 5.

“My intention is to broaden the conversation to ensure that decisions we make about investments, gifts, and partnerships are grounded in PSU’s values and take into account a full range of mission-aligned considerations,” said Cudd in the letter to the PSU community.

The new Committee on Socially Responsible Investment and Partnership will be made up of students, faculty and PSU board members. Committee members will be chosen by Cudd over the summer, according to the statement. It is expected to launch during the university’s fall quarter, later this year.

“I am taking this step in response to numerous conversations with students, faculty, alumni, funders and community members over the last month,” said Cudd in the Friday statement. “I have taken to heart their counsel that we continue this important engagement in the context of a formal university committee rather than during an open-ended public forum.”

Cutting ties with Boeing, which supplies military equipment to Israel, has been one of the key demands of student protesters. Portland State has no financial investments with Boeing but it has accepted philanthropic gifts from the aerospace company and its business school has close ties with the company. Cudd agreed to pause PSU’s relationship with Boeing in April. That pause will continue until the new committee makes recommendations.

A resolution passed by the university’s student government, the Associated Students of Portland State University, on May 13 also called on PSU to end its relationship with Boeing.

This is the latest move from Cudd to address some of the demands of the student government and student protesters who want to see an end to the violence in Gaza. In a joint statement with PSU’s student government last week, Cudd denounced the violence in Gaza and called for a ceasefire. New initiatives to address Islamophobia and antisemitism on Portland State’s campus were also announced. And Cudd introduced plans to offer scholarships to students directly affected by the war.

Copyright 2024 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Tiffany Camhi