89.9 FM Live From The University Of New Mexico
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Roundtable discusses Pro-Palestinian protests at UNM

Source New Mexico Editor Shaun Griswold conducts a roundtable discussion about the Pro-Palestinian protests at the University of New Mexico.
New Mexico in Focus
Source New Mexico Editor Shaun Griswold conducts a roundtable discussion about the Pro-Palestinian protests at the University of New Mexico.

Protesters on the University of New Mexico campus are still stationed at the Duck Pond, calling for the school to divest from Israel.

Source New Mexico Editor Shaun Griswold hosted a panel on New Mexico in Focus, where he spoke with three people who are involved with or witnessed the protests – UNM Professor Ernesto Longa, who is leading research on UNM’s investments, Daily Lobo Editor Paloma Chapa and Civil Rights and Criminal Defense Attorney Ahmad Assed.

Longa started the conversation by explaining what divestment of Israel by UNM would look like.

LONGA: We know that UNM has a significant endowment pool that's managed by the UNM foundation.

GRISWOLD: It has millions of dollars? 

LONGA: Yeah, hundreds of millions of dollars. I believe UNM’s last financial audit reported having [a] consolidated investment pool consisting of about $715 million.

GRISWOLD: This is all the research you've had to do independently. Is that correct?

LONGA: Yes, I mean, some of this information is readily available on their web pages through their financial audits. The UNM Foundation reports kind of high-level information about its investments in a series of funds based on asset categories and things of that type.

We've submitted a series of public record requests to try to gather some additional information, but are really running into a bit of a wall.

GRISWOLD: Do we have an actual figure as to how much UNM is investing in the state of Israel?

LONGA: No, we don't, but we have begun to gather some sense of maybe what some of its financial connections are to Israeli companies, primarily. Some of the funds that UNM is invested in make publicly available their holdings.

For example, UNM is invested in BlackRock, one of BlackRock’s index funds. We know from its investments in BlackRock that it has connections to companies that produce military weapons that are used, and that are being used in the assault on Gaza.

There's some good resources out there that would help guide us in forming what divestment would look like, from which companies. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, for example, has identified 112 businesses, mostly Israeli companies, which profit off of the illegal occupation.

GRISWOLD: Paloma, I have to ask now – now let's go to the encampments and the protest. You were one of the first journalists New Mexico to see the encampment at UNM get established.

When The Lobo did first notice this, what was UNMPD's involvement when you first started this coverage?

CHAPA: It started out with a march and rally starting from the SUB to the bookstore and then to the Duck Pond, and then at the Duck Pond is when people started bringing out tents and pitching them.

There was no police presence at that time until about, well at 6 p.m., then they put the first notice on the tent that this was a violation of UNM policy.

Then at 8 p.m. when there was a rally that happened that evening because it was also Earth Day, the police did come and it was UNM and state police officers that came to the encampment and brought up the policy again.

They tried to make the protesters remove the tents that were there, but they started, they picked up the tents and picketed with them and the officers pretty much just stood there until late at night.

I talked to one of the UNMPD officers to try to get a statement from them, and I didn't get one.

GRISWOLD: When did you first notice New Mexico State Police show up on campus around the encampment?

CHAPA: 7:51.

GRISWOLD: The first night, New Mexico State police were there.

CHAPA: Yeah.

GRISWOLD: So later that night, your reporting showed that police did interact with the protesters and clear out the encampment. Later into that, we saw some of that similar pattern throughout the week.

Now, I'm curious because the duck pond is right in the middle of campus, which means everybody sees the encampment, so what have you noticed as a reporter as well as a UNM student in terms of the way the that the folks on campus are interacting with the protest and the encampment?

CHAPA: One day, there was a counter protester, who came with signs and stuff, but otherwise I haven't noticed much interaction.

GRISWOLD: Ahmad, I want to ask you – so, legally speaking, what rights do students have to protest the way they have at the Duck Pond?

ASSED: You know, [on] every university campus fundamentals of freedom of expression and speech are vital to this dialogue, to learning and sharing knowledge.

So, the students have every right to protest within the confines of their first amendment rights, and as long as there isn't an impediment to the operation of the university or there isn't physical threats that are occurring.

GRISWOLD: A week after the camp was set up, we saw this escalate to the situation at the student union building. There's images around us that show a lot of what Paloma and her sister and their daily local colleague caught.

So, I'm curious from your perspective, what's different from a legal perspective once the group decides to occupy the student union building? 

ASSED: I think there is a distinction with regards to administrative policies versus criminal acts. It's always supposed to be about the faculty, the administration and the students as one. When we start going at separating students away from faculty and administration is where the problems start.

So, I fault the university for not having historically better relationships, understanding student organizations fostering an environment for more dialogue, for an opportunity to have speech.

The full New Mexico in Focus show is available online.

Related Content