Portland State University ‘pauses’ Boeing donations amid student protests | US universities

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A university in Portland, Oregon will “pause” accepting donations from Boeing after students called on the school to cut ties with the manufacturer amid the war in Gaza.

In addition to setting up an encampment on campus, students also addressed a letter to Ann Cudd, the president of Portland State University (PSU), demanding the university cut ties with Boeing.

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In a campus-wide message, Cudd said she had been motivated by “the passion with which these demands are being repeatedly expressed by some in our community”.

“PSU will pause seeking or accepting any further gifts or grants from the Boeing Company until we have had a chance to engage in this debate and come to conclusions about a reasonable course of action,” she wrote in her memo.

Cudd reiterated that the university “has no investments in Boeing but accepts philanthropic gifts from the company and, given that Boeing is a major employer in the region, many of our alumni work there”.

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Though Boeing is headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, the company’s largest manufacturing plant is in Everett, Washington, about 200 miles north of Portland. The company is most known for its airplanes but is also one of the largest defense companies in the world. Boeing did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

At a press conference in March, Cudd said that the company donated $150,000 to the university this year to name a classroom, in addition to the $28,000 the company donates to the school each year for scholarships and emergency funds, according to the school’s student newspaper. At the time, Cudd had said she had not “seen any logical reason to rethink this relationship with Boeing”.

The response from PSU is one of the first from university administrators to distance their school from a major weapons manufacturer. Though hundreds of students across the country have been protesting on their campuses, setting up encampments demanding divestment from weapons manufacturers and companies with ties to Israel, many universities have repeatedly said they will not divest from Israel or manufacturers.

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Colleges and universities in the United States have endowments that they often use as financial buffers. Harvard, which has the largest endowment at $51bn, said that it “opposes calls for a policy of boycotting Israel and its academic institutions”. The University of California, which has an endowment of $169bn for its 10 campuses, also said that it “opposed calls for boycott against any divestment from Israel”.

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Even after Cudd’s announcement, students at PSU continue to run an encampment outside one of the school’s libraries. On Instagram, Occupy PSU, which is helping to coordinate the encampment, called for a continuation of protests as the school has already accepted funds for the fiscal year. The group had called on the school to end all partnerships, including recruitment, with the company, among other demands.

“While PSU does not put finances into Boeing, they take their money and give them a platform for predatory recruitment,” the group wrote. “They already have the investment from Boeing for the fiscal year of 2024. This is institutional jargon attempting to placate. We will not stop until demands are met.”

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