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A activist for Palestine holds a sign at Civic Plaza on Nov. 4, 2023. 

Students urge Board of Regents to address Israel divestment resolution

“My parents survived the genocide that happened in Bangladesh. My dad was two years old when it happened. He has scars on his body from being beaten by Pakistani soldiers,” University of New Mexico College Democrats President Rakin Faruk said.

On Jan. 26, the International Court of Justice deemed it “plausible” that Israel committed genocide against Gaza in some cases after Oct. 7, 2023. As of Apr. 7, at least 33,137 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli army, according to Aljazeera.

For Faruk, the genocide has affected her entire life, she said. The brutality inflicted upon her own family is why she has been so involved with the protests for Palestine, she said.

“(My dad) has the scars on his body to remind him every day, and he has the news to remind him every day because it's still happening,” Faruk said.

Faruk is one of many activists on campus — including Diego Guerrerortiz, a student at UNM School of Law, and Andre-Montoya Barthelemy, a faculty member at UNM School of Medicine — who have advocated for the University's divestment from Israel.

UNM has received grants from the U.S.-Israel Binational Foundations, according to The Jewish Virtual Library. The three activists have voiced their opposition to the University’s financial ties to entities that perpetuate violence against Palestinian people.

“We intend to not let the Board of Regents conduct another meeting without people at that meeting calling for a ceasefire and divestment, and we need student support for that,” Guerrerortiz said.

Central to the students' demands is the call for divestment from companies and organizations complicit in the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. They argue that divestment is a necessary step toward aligning the University's investments with principles of justice, equality and human rights, according to Guerrerortiz, Barthelemy and Faruk.

“Our goal is to have the University divest from those interests because, we as the students, do not support genocide or apartheid,” Guerrerortiz said.

Their efforts to initiate dialogue with the University have been met with silence from the University, Guerrerortiz said. The Board of Regents, the governing body responsible for the University's investment decisions, has yet to formally address the issue of divestment, Guerrerortiz said.

“Before the Board of Regents is even willing to discuss divestment, the matter has to be on the agenda. We need student organizations to sponsor the resolution and show the Board of Regents that there is considerable support for divestment,” Guerrerortiz said.

Leaders are working to garner support from students and student organizations to sponsor the divestment resolution, Guerrerortiz said.

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To achieve their goals, Guerrerortiz, Barthelemy and Faruk are asking other students to sponsor the divestment resolution and demonstrate widespread support and solidarity within the student body, they said.

Samia Assed, an Albuquerque activist, wants students and youth to become active in this issue. She works with the Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice where her advocacy spans across various humanitarian and community organizations, including UNM Students for Justice in Palestine.

“Any change (is) going to have to start with these young youth here – this kind of momentum, this kind of leadership, and passion and drive for justice,” Assed said.

Faruk said she encouraged students to consider boycotting companies that have financial ties to Israel, including Starbucks, she said. The boycotting of McDonalds, Starbucks, Coca-Cola and Dominos has impacted sales, according to Aljazeera. Students at more than 50 universities across the country are calling for administrators to terminate contracts with Starbucks, aiming to get the stores removed from their campuses, according to Inside Higher Ed.

“I will always push for students to reach out to their staff, the Board of Regents members or politicians,” Faruk said.

Montoya-Barthelemy said he encouraged all students – not just Palestinians – to talk about these issues.

“Palestinian liberation is Indigenous liberation. All of these are interconnected. The struggle for that liberation is a struggle for all of us,” Montoya-Barthelemy said.

The University is in an excellent place to demonstrate solidarity with Palestinians and carry their example to the liberation of an entire world, Montoya-Barthelemy said.

“Solutions which lie in capturing this organizing opportunity improved political education and trust in young people,” Montoya-Barthelemy said. “Especially the students of UNM.”

Ella Daniel is a freelance reporter with the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at or on Twitter @DailyLobo. 

Correction 4/21/2024: A correction has been made to the Assed's position at the Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice.


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