Michigan State students compel university administrators to meet on divestment demand
MSU President Kevin M. Guskiewicz is confronted by student protesters demanding divestment at the Board of Trustees meeting on June 28. | Jesse Estrada White / People's World

FLINT, Mich.—Michigan State University students have won a victory in their fight for divestment, but the war continues. Bowing to pressure, MSU President Kevin M. Guskiewicz and the Board of Trustees have agreed to meet with the Hurriya Coalition, a key mover of the campus ceasefire movement, to discuss divesting from all financial connections connected with the State of Israel.

On Friday, June 28, the Board of Trustees, a statewide elected group meant to represent the university, held its summer board meeting in Flint. There, the Hurriya Coalition, composed of more than 20 student organizations, including the Young Communist League, shut down the meeting for over 30 minutes to demand that MSU disclose and divest from funding Israel’s war on Gaza.

On the official agenda was a series of controversial votes to raise tuition and limit public comment at future board meetings. The chair of the Committee on Budget and Finance, Trustee Sandy Pierce, also gave a report on MSU’s investment portfolio. In the report, she stated, “The board is satisfied with the portfolio, and it aligns with our policies.”

Students chant during the Board meeting. | Jesse Estrada White / People’s World

Pierce said the Board stood by its April statement opposing divestment and that it did not consider the matter any future, as it wanted to keep the portfolio free from “political interference.” It was during her report that members and supporters of the Hurriya Coalition began chanting while holding signs and banners.

Chants included readings from the Board policy that they must manage the portfolio with a “social conscience” and “MSU, your hands are red, forty thousand people dead.”

The disruption forced the board members and the president, Guskiewicz, to pause the meeting. They exited the room in hopes of escaping the protesters, but the students followed them to the hallway outside the new meeting room, where they could apparently still hear them. This forced Guskiewicz and Trustees Dan Kelly and Pierce to come out and negotiate with the students.

To end the disruption, Pierce agreed to have a meeting with the students before the end of July, along with Guskiewicz and MSU’s CFO. They also agreed to allow all public commenters to give statements.

Following the concession, the meeting continued, and members heard from faculty, staff, and students supporting divestment. The board also heard public comments from survivors of the genocide in Gaza, which were translated by a leader in the Hurriya Coalition. Those testimonies convinced at least one other trustee, Brianna Scott, to attend the future meeting with student leaders.

Students follow trustees into the hallway outside the meeting room. | Jesse Estrada White / People’s World

“We see all concessions made by the university administration as progress in our campaign for divestment,” said one Hurriya organizer, “but we are not fighting for meetings; we are fighting for divestment, and we will not rest until we get it.”

MSU currently invests over $500 million into companies, equities, and funds connected to Israel and directly in the Netanyahu government itself via its Israeli bond holdings. Its portfolio also invests over $3 million into weapons manufacturers, including Boeing, Northrup Grumman, and Lockheed Martin.

Students, faculty, and community members have campaigned for divestment from Israel since October 2023 and have promised not to stop until complete divestment is won.

“This is a major step forward in winning divestment, but it is not the end,” the coalition said in a statement after the Board meeting action. Hurriya said the win only came after a popular movement and immense pressure from students. “Now is the time to turn that pressure up and keep the momentum going into the fall. We call on the whole campus community to join us.”


Jesse Estrada White
Jesse Estrada White

Jesse Estrada White is a student activist and organizer with the Michigan State University YCL, the Sunrise Movement, and the Rent Is Too Damn High Coalition (Michigan).