Divestment video doesn’t tell whole story

By Miki Shine, Managing Editor
On April 2, 2017

USF Divest released a video last week on its Facebook page that shows one of its leaders and recent USF graduate Ahmad Hassam (left) approaching USF System President Judy Genshaft about a referendum recently presented to the student body. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE

USF Divest released a video last week on its Facebook page that shows one of its leaders and recent USF graduate Ahmad Hassam approaching USF System President Judy Genshaft about a referendum recently presented to the student body.

The referendum called for the university’s foundation to divest from companies that contribute to fossil fuels, fund private prisons and are complicit in human rights violations. 

The video dictates the group’s unrest with the university, but while doing so, it also presents some inaccuracies.

Near the beginning of the video, it states that tuition money is used in these investments, but according to USF spokesman Adam Freeman, The Foundation does not invest tuition dollars.

“USF prudently invests in highly-diversified mutual funds in accordance with its investment policy and state law,” Freeman said in an email. “The university does not invest tuition dollars in individual companies.”

The video also states that the referendum passed with 89 percent. The caption to the video states 89 percent of the student body voted for the university to divest. While the vote count is not inaccurately stated, it can be misleading. 

About 14 percent of the student body voted in the election, according to the unverified results, with 89 percent of the votes in favor of divestment. 

“In spring 2017’s student election, more than 80 percent of students did not voice their support for the divestment referendum, either by voting against it or by choosing not to vote on the issue at all,” Freeman said.

Hassam did not respond to follow-up questions about these inaccuracies. 

Initially, he told The Oracle via Facebook Messanger that members of USF Divest were waiting for Genshaft outside of a meeting.

“We respectfully introduced ourselves and asked for a moment of her time,” he said. “She ignored us and walked right past us. We asked again and she said she didn’t want to talk, so we offered to walk with her and just make our points.”

He claimed that Genshaft attempted to get away from them by engaging in another conversation and continually ignoring them.

“If Judy Genshaft and the administration really think that their investments are not an issue, I challenge them to host us for a public debate for all the community to see,” Hassam said. “Let us have the conversation publicly.”

Despite the group’s adamant displeasure with The Foundation, USF stands by it, citing the positives that come out its investments, including 3,400 scholarships in the previous fiscal year.

“The USF Foundation plays an essential role in supporting students and helping the university achieve its strategic goals through raising, managing and investing money from private donors,” Freeman said. “These gifts provide the university with additional funds we would not otherwise have that allow us to offer life-changing scholarships and experiences for students, attract world-class faculty and significantly enhance our facilities.”

Editor in Chief Jacob Hoag contributed to this report.

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