Legislative student organizations debate The University of Texas/Texas A&M Investment Management Company divesting from weapons manufacturing

Sheryl Lawrence

Legislative student organizations passed a resolution demanding the UT System divest all money from weapon manufacturing before January 2022. The resolution is waiting for the University administration and its investment management company for implementation.

The University of Texas/Texas A&M Investment Management Company manages the endowments for the UT and Texas A&M systems. Currently, the company has roughly $50 million invested in weapon manufacturers that sell to the United States government, which decides where the weapons go. 

Women for Weapons Trade Transparency, who authored the resolution, brought the bill and a petition to the legislative student organizations to bring more attention to the issue. The student-led organization is working to increase the accessibility of information about international weapons trade, according to their website. 

The Graduate Student Assembly and Senate of College Councils passed the resolution to divest earlier this month, but Student Government did not due to concerns that the resolution was outside their jurisdiction. Only two out of three legislative student organizations need to pass the resolution for it to be sent to the University administration and other necessary organizations.

“We believe that by gaining support for this divestment initiative within legislative student organizations, we can create an avenue for us to work directly with UT and (The University of Texas/Texas A&M Investment Management Company) administration on this issue,” said Roshan Khan, a founding member of Women for Weapons Trade Transparency.

Janet Abou Elias, another founding member of the weapon transparency organization, said students should know about the companies the University works with. 

“Students should care that the investment management company of their University is directly investing in companies that are directly profiting from international warmongering, loss of human life and humanitarian crisis,” said Elias, international relations and global studies senior. “The money that’s being managed by (The University of Texas/Texas A&M Investment Management Company) is partially able to be managed in the first place because of the attendance of students at this University.”

The University of Texas/Texas A&M Investment Management Company did not respond to a request for a comment on the legislation specifically.

“Many external firms that UTIMCO hires to manage endowment assets do consider environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors in their investment processes,” Karen Adler, director of media relations and communications for the UT System, said in an email. “These firms recognize that taking environmentally and socially sustainable factors into consideration is a good business practice that improves profitability and long-term competitiveness.” 

Aerospace engineering junior Shawn Habibi said he helped start a petition against the resolution because he felt the resolution could limit the job market for students. 

“When you build rapport with companies like these … it helps the students,” Habibi said. “We get our name out there, companies come to Texas, companies look at engineering students, they come to our job fairs, and it’s a mutual relationship.”

Walker Adams, Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs representative, said the University is implicit in human rights abuses because of their involvement in providing money to produce weapons. 

“Regardless of the intention behind those providing weapons into the region, and regardless of whether that intention is good or not, there are very few experiences throughout history where weapons have provided benevolent circumstances and have provided anything other than misery and violence,” said Adams, a public affairs graduate student.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include clarifying information from Karen Adler about external firms hired by UTIMCO. It also has been updated to include information about the mission of Women for Weapons Trade Transparency.