The Associated Students voted 16 to 0 to urge UCI to stop investing in Caterpillar, General Electric, Hewlett-Packard, Raytheon and other firms that "contribute to illegal settlement construction in the occupied Palestinian territories," according to a statement.
The students pledged in the statement to scrutinize other UCI investments for companies that profit from what they deemed human-rights abuses.
Palestinians in 2005 called for boycotts and sanctions against Israel. UCI students said they were inspired by similar declarations at Hampshire College in Massachusetts and Evergreen State College in Washington state.
UCI student Sabreen Shalabi, who co-authored the recommendation, said 20 to 30 students began collaborating on the statement in summer.
"I felt as a student of conscience it was my duty to do something," she said.
Shalabi pointed to the case of 11 UCI students, the so-called "Irvine 11," who faced misdemeanor charges for conspiracy and disturbing an assembly after they protested a speech at the campus by Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to the U.S. Of those initially charged, 10 were convicted by a jury and their case is being appealed.
"Palestine has always been an issue on our campus," Shalabi said. "People working on this have always been aware of this. We felt this was a very good outlet."
UCI released a statement saying it would not take the proposed action, saying it would risk the campuses goals of global collaboration.
"In the spirit and practice of active engagement with all peoples of that region, UCI has been extremely pleased with recent global collaboration between leaders and researchers here and those at top universities around the world, including Israel," the statement read. "The campus looks forward to continued constructive exchanges that benefit our students, faculty and community."
Policy requires action only when demanded by the U.S. government, according to the UCI statement.
Members of Jewish student groups on campus could not be reached Wednesday afternoon.