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US University ‘pauses’ ties with Boeing amidst anti-Israel protests

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Portland State University (PSU) has taken a bold step by pausing the acceptance of gifts and grants from Boeing until a thorough examination of the ethical implications is conducted. This decision, announced by PSU President Ann Cudd, comes amidst a backdrop of nationwide protests, including at PSU, against Israel’s war in Gaza.

Pro-Israel counter-protesters display Israeli flags near protesters attending a demonstration in support of Palestinians in Gaza, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) in Los Angeles, California, U.S. April 28, 2024. REUTERS/David Swanson(REUTERS)

Boeing had invested $150,000 in the school to name a classroom and provides around $28,000 a year for scholarships, according to PSU’s Vanguard newspaper.

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Portland University first to bow to student demands

The school has no investments in Boeing, but does accept philanthropic gifts, university president Ann Cudd said.

Student organizations across the country have been advocating for universities to sever ties with Israel and divest from companies that provide weapons and technology to the country.

“I have heard many students and faculty express that they would like to see PSU cut ties with the company. I initially found these demands confusing and arbitrary: PSU has no investments in Boeing but accepts philanthropic gifts from the company and, given that Boeing is a major employer in the region, many of our alumni work there,” PSU President Ann Cudd said in a letter to the campus community Friday.

Initially, Cudd found these demands confusing and arbitrary, given PSU’s minimal financial involvement with Boeing. However, the fervent expressions from the campus community compelled her to reevaluate the situation.

“However, the passion with which these demands are being repeatedly expressed by some in our community motivates me, as a scholar of academic ethics and a university leader responsible for the well being of our campus constituents, to listen and ask additional questions,” Cudd said

Boeing ties with Israel

Boeing, a major player in the aerospace industry proudly states on its website that its relationship with Israel dates back more than 75 years, to the founding of the State of Israel. Currently, the Israel Defense Forces operate nine different Boeing products, contributing to a $3.5 billion benefit to the Israeli economy. Many PSU alumni are employed by Boeing, further complicating the ethical considerations.

Pro-Palestinian protesters across US Universities have similarly urged businesses, governments and universities to cut ties with Boeing due to the war.

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