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Monday, May 13, 2013

Student Protesters Target TIAA

Reported by Tommy Fernandez

New York students plan to protest at TIAA-CREF's headquarters in Midtown Manhattan at 4 p.m. today, calling for the asset manager's divestment from companies that the students claim are "benefiting from the Israeli occupation of Palestine."

The protest is part of the We Divest movement in which over 250 students from 23 colleges and universities have reportedly participated. The movement documents itself on the website thefuturedivests.tumblr.com.

The activists also sent a letter to newly-hired executive vice president Robert Leary on the subject.

The letter reads as follows:
Dear Robert Leary,

We are students from colleges throughout the New York metropolitan area, representing chapters from Students for Justice in Palestine.  We are future doctors, lawyers, teachers, professors, and non-profit employees.  As future professionals, we are also future pension holders and potential TIAA-CREF clients.

We have come to know TIAA-CREF through its presence at our schools.  We know that TIAA-CREF prides itself on its dedication to socially responsible investing.  We are therefore gravely concerned with TIAA-CREF’s investments in corporations that profit from egregious human rights abuses towards Palestinians.  These human rights abuses are in violation of international and US law, and the investments total more than $2 billion, including funds in TIAA-CREF’s social choice portfolio.  As future professionals, we want a retirement plan that genuinely upholds a socially responsible policy.  We want the option to retire without investments in the Israeli occupation or any other humanitarian atrocity.

On February 7th, more than 200 shareholders filed a resolution to divest from Veolia, a corporation that provides segregated transportation services to Israeli settlers living on Palestinian land in the West Bank.  We have been paying close attention to developments since the filing, including TIAA-CREF’s challenging of the resolution to the SEC.  TIAA-CREF’s refusal to give this resolution a chance for a vote contradicts its stated commitment to socially responsible investing and shareholder advocacy.  The outcome of this legal battle will greatly impact our view of TIAA-CREF in our future professional lives.  TIAA-CREF’s actions determine whether or not it will be a viable option for our future retirements.  Ultimately, we will remember whether or not TIAA-CREF demonstrated a commitment to socially responsible investing in Israel-Palestine.

During the struggle to end South African apartheid, large financial institutions divested due to significant pressure from student groups.  Banks like Barclays responded to this pressure because they recognized student activists as their future clientele.  We hope that TIAA-CREF recognizes the role we have in shaping its future by hearing our present concerns.  Please accept the validity of the Veolia divestment resolution by allowing it to be included during July’s shareholder meeting.

Sincerely,

Students, future professionals and potential shareholders
—— Students for Justice in Palestine at Brooklyn College
New York University Students for Justice in Palestine
Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine
Students for Justice in Palestine at College of Staten Island
Students for Justice in Palestine (Rutgers-Newark)
Students for Justice in Palestine (Rutgers-New Brunswick)
Seton Hall University Students for Justice in Palestine
Students of Color Collective from Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College
Students for Justice in Palestine at John Jay College
Students for Justice in Palestine at Hunter College
Regarding the protests, a TIAA-CREF spokesman made this comment:
TIAA-CREF’s investment decisions are guided by our corporate governance policies and the best long-term interests of our diverse customer base.  We are always listening and determining how best to serve clients according to our established guidelines.

Here is the press release from the student activists:
Press Release FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
?Friday, May 10, 2013
?Contacts:  Alana Krivo-Kaufman, We Divest Coalition,
?614-425-7469 | alana@jvp.org
?Sarah Aly, 347-556-2634 | sarah.aly.1094@gmail.com


New York Students Protest TIAA-CREF’s Investments in Human Rights Abuses, Call to Divest from Companies Benefiting from Israel’s Occupation of Palestine



Date: Monday, May 13, 2013
?Time: 4pm-5:30pm
?Place: TIAA-CREF Headquarters, 730 3rd Ave, NY, NY


NYC, NY- On Monday, May 13th, at 4pm, student activists will be protesting outside of TIAA-CREF’s national headquarters as the nationwide We Divest movement builds leading up to TIAA-CREF’s summer shareholder meeting. Since February, more than 250 students from 23 colleges and universities have taken part in student actions demonstrating their support for divestment, documented at thefuturedivests.tumblr.com. Students from colleges throughout the New York metropolitan area will be calling for TIAA-CREF, one of the largest retirement funds in the country, to divest from all companies benefiting from the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

Carolyn Klassen, Jewish Voice for Peace-NY Chapter, Union Theological Seminary:
“We are future doctors, lawyers, teachers, professors, and non-profit employees.  As future professionals, we are future pension holders and TIAA-CREF clients. TIAA-CREF prides itself on socially responsible investing.  We are gravely concerned with TIAA-CREF’s investments in corporations profiting from egregious human rights abuses.”

Maya Wind ‘13, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), Columbia University:
“As future professionals, we want a retirement plan that genuinely upholds a socially responsible policy.  We want to retire without investments in the Israeli occupation or any other humanitarian atrocity. TIAA-CREF has investments of more than $2 billion in companies profiting from human rights abuses in Palestine in violation of international and US law, including investment funds in TIAA-CREF’s social choice portfolio.”

Sundus Seif '15, SJP, Brooklyn College:
“On February 7th, more than 200 shareholders filed a resolution to divest from Veolia, a corporation that provides segregated transportation services to Israeli settlers living on Palestinian land in the West Bank. TIAA-CREF’s challenge of the resolution at the SEC contradicts its stated commitment to socially responsible investing and shareholder advocacy.  Ultimately, we will remember if TIAA-CREF demonstrated a commitment to socially responsible investing in Israel-Palestine when we choose our retirement fund.

Ahmad Aburas '14, SJP, Rutgers Newark:
“During the struggle to end South African apartheid, large financial institutions divested due to significant pressure from student groups.  Banks like Barclays responded to this pressure because they recognized student activists as their future clientele.  We hope TIAA-CREF recognizes our role in shaping its future by hearing our concerns about companies profiting from egregious human rights abuses against Palestinians.”

The activists will be carrying colorful posters, including a photomosaic of 250 students across the country spelling “divest” and chanting. Photos and videos will be available upon request.
 

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