Trinity College Cambridge student union passes motion to divest from war on Gaza

The motion calls on the institution’s administration to divest from all companies ‘complicit’ in the war on Gaza

Imran Mulla

A banner calling for divestment at the student encampment for Gaza on Cambridge's iconic King's Parade
A banner calling for divestment at the student encampment for Gaza at Cambridge’s iconic King’s Parade, in Cambridge, England (Imran Mulla/MEE)

The student union at Trinity College Cambridge in England, the University of Cambridge’s wealthiest constituent college, has passed a motion calling on Trinity to divest from all companies “complicit and profiting” from Israel’s war on Gaza, Middle East Eye has learnt. 

On Saturday 11 May, the Trinity College Student Union (TCSU) unanimously passed a motion which called on the college “to divest from all companies complicit in and profiting off the war in Gaza that has created an unprecedented humanitarian crisis”.

MEE revealed on Sunday, that according to the student union, Trinity’s college council, which administers the college, voted to divest from all arms companies. But the college decided not to announce it publicly after an activist defaced a portrait inside Trinity of Lord Arthur Balfour.

The motion from the student union goes further than the council’s vote as it demands divestment from all companies involved in the war on Gaza, not just arms manufacturers.

The student union’s president said in the meeting on Saturday, according to its official minutes, that “the college does not want to be seen to reward the slashing (last term) of the painting of Arthur Balfour”, and noted that the student union had been told the college will have divested from all arms companies “by the summer”.

The student union also called for a meeting with Trinity’s bursar “to examine and disclose College investments, ensuring their alignment with ethical guidelines”.

The motion also condemned all forms of racism and called for the protection of free speech in academia “in discussing the actions of the Israeli government in a constructive, respectable and peaceful way”.

It advocated for the college to support students at Cambridge who have been affected by the war and establish funds and scholarships in aid of Palestinian students and academics in Gaza.

MEE has contacted the Trinity College Student Union but did not receive comment by the time of publication.

Calls for a wider review

MEE revealed in February that Trinity had £61,735 ($78,089) invested in Israel’s largest arms company, Elbit Systems, which produces 85 percent of the drones and land-based equipment used by the Israeli army.

MEE also reported that the college had millions of dollars invested in other companies arming, supporting and profiting from Israel’s war on Gaza. Trinity has not committed to divesting from all these companies.

One of the students who proposed the motion last Saturday told MEE that the union now has “the mandate and backing from the student body” to advocate for Trinity to do much more to support students affected by the war. 

Cambridge’s wealthiest college votes to divest from arms companies

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The motion, unanimously passed, means that Trinity’s students “stand in clear solidarity with the Palestinian people”, the student, who preferred to remain anonymous, said.

They told MEE they “were happy to hear that the college had told the TCSU of their decision to divest from all arms companies” but called on Trinity and the wider university to “divest from all companies complicit in the ongoing genocide in Gaza” and urged the college to make students aware of its investment decisions.

In response to a request for comment, Trinity College Cambridge did not confirm or deny that the college council voted to divest from arms companies but told MEE on Monday that “Trinity College continues to review its investments regularly.”

On 7 May, the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP), a UK-based rights group, submitted a formal complaint to the Charity Commission requesting an investigation into Trinity’s investments. This followed the ICJP issuing two successive legal notices to the college but receiving no response.

A protest movement led by Cambridge students, meanwhile, is growing. Around one hundred students gathered on the lawn of the city’s iconic King’s Parade last Monday, where they erected tents and demanded the institution commit to divesting from companies involved in Israel’s war. The protest continues to gather momentum. 

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