Education

‘Where Is Everybody?’ Some Public Colleges Cut Ties With Russia Over Ukraine War

Public universities in Arizona this week joined a handful of others nationwide that said they would sell their Russian assets after an Arizona Board of Regents vote on Monday. The move is largely symbolic, but board members see it as an important demonstration of their disapproval of President Vladimir V. Putin’s war in Ukraine.

Arizona’s regents told the presidents of Arizona State University, the University of Arizona, and Northern Arizona University to divest their foundations, pension funds, and retirement plans from Russia.

Fred DuVal, chair-elect of the board, acknowledged in an interview that the amount the universities would sell off was relatively small — $4 million, or a fraction of a percent of their portfolios — and was unlikely to be felt in Russia. But he hoped other universities would follow.

“Collectively, universities across the country, if they all did it, it would have a meaningful impact,” DuVal said.

He added that the universities would also be ending partnerships with Russian universities, though those were also minor and mostly amounted to several agreements that allowed students to take classes at one another’s universities for credit.

Some other public universities are taking similar steps. Last week the governors of Virginia and Colorado urged the public colleges in their states to divest from Russia. The governor of Indiana asked public colleges to disclose Russian funding and research ties.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced that it would end its partnership with the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology, a graduate research university in Russia that it helped create.

DuVal was dismayed that more universities hadn’t already done the same. “Where is everybody?” he said. The Arizona Board of Regents was unanimous in its decision, he said.

The divestments are likely to be a drop in the bucket compared with the billions that sanctions have cost Russian companies. Duval said the companies’ loss in value is one reason the Arizona investments are so small.

DuVal added that about 200 Russian and Ukrainian students are studying at the three public universities in Arizona. The universities are working to make sure the students have what they need and are in touch with their families, he said.


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