STAND pushes against investment in Sudan
Brandeis' chapter of Students Taking Action Now: Darfur is pushing for the University to issue a statement of "disinvestment" from 35 of the 83 companies associated with the Sudanese government. The group is also working with other area universities to get the state of Massachusetts to divest from those companies. "Disinvestment," STAND Coordinator Weldon Kennedy '06 said, means Brandeis will not invest in those companies until genocide in Sudan ends, while a statement of divestment connotes the withdrawal of investments already in companies.
Brandeis currently does not invest its endowment in any of these 35 companies. But Students Uniting for Divestment Action Now (SUDAN), an arm of STAND, hopes that Brandeis will make this position more conspicuous, more permanent and more morally-driven by drafting a statement against investing in Sudan-associated companies until genocide ends in the Darfur region. This statement would be the most comprehensive list of divestment in the country.
"Investments change constantly," Kennedy said. "We need to ensure that Brandeis never decides to invest in these companies."
According to a Nov. 3 STAND press release, "as of yet no university has successfully followed this comprehensive model of divestment, which includes all non-aid, relief and food companies doing business with Sudan."
Harvard University and Stanford University have divested from certain companies, but as the press release states, "This would be a groundbreaking divestment action by a university in response to this genocide."
Executive Director of the campaign Daniel Millenson '09 said they are only requesting "disinvestment" and "divestment" from the 35 companies that they are sure do not take money away from companies that might provide people with aid and food.
To show community-wide support for the statement, STAND is collecting student and faculty signatures over the next few weeks for a petition to supplement a proposal they will submit to the president's office. If the president supports the proposal, it will be passed on to the Executive Board and eventually given to the Investment Committee of the board of trustees who will make the final decision.
"If it's recommended favorable at the first step, ideally it will be recommended all the way through," Kennedy said.
Millenson, who is drafting the proposal to the President's office, said he hopes to obtain at least 1,500 signatures-which would constitute approximately half of the undergraduate student body.
To persuade the University to issue a public statement of "disinvestment," Millenson said SUDAN must demonstrate support and show that divestiture is worthwhile whether or not it conflicts with future University investment interests.
Millenson said it is impossible to divest from all unethical associations; however, "We draw the line at genocide."
"We'll have to make a very strong case," Millenson said. "We think we can convince them that this is something they are compelled to do because of the Brandeis statement on social responsibility."
STAND officials also feel that Brandeis could help spur other schools to action.
"This will set a precedent for other schools and institutions to follow," Kennedy said, adding that if the University of California schools followed suit, the effect would be enormous, because they own around $66 million in stock supporting Sudan's economy.
"In some cases, divestment is a viable option," said Erica Lipschultz '07, campus relations director for SUDAN. "This is one." In addition to the campus petition drive, SUDAN is advocating for Mass. State Senate bill 2166 on Sudan divestment, which was introduced in July.
"The state pension fund is in the billions," Millenson said. "We're hoping to make Massachusetts the fourth state to divest," following the leads of Illinois, Oregon and New Jersey.
"The government gets absolutely everything from foreign companies," Kennedy said. According to SudanDivestment.com, American companies have been prohibited from doing business with Sudan since 1997.
Kennedy said he is confident that Brandeis will issue the statement: "Brandeis is founded on the idea that if we see a people wronged, we will help them.