On Dec. 3, members from Students Taking Action Now in Darfur and Conflict-Free Campus Initiative met with the Faculty Senate to discuss and make edits to the groups’ conflict-free electronics proposal. 

The groups’ proposal suggests that the University look into its electronics suppliers’ conflict minerals policy and actively look for companies that do not use such minerals. Conflict minerals are harvested in areas where the local population is in conflict. One such area is the Congo, where the harvesting of conflict minerals exploits the poor working class and funds violent rebel groups who terrorize the population.

CFCI’s most recent Northeast Campus Coordinator Gina Gkoulgkountina ’14 said in an interview with the Justice that the groups’ goals are to educate both the electronics suppliers and the Brandeis community so that practices harmful to the Congolese people might be phased out in the next few years. 

“We’re not saying ‘throw out all the old electronics and focus on conflict-free,’ because that would be really hard and devastating for the economy here and in the Congo.” said Gkoulgkountina. “It’s mostly about educating people … and to start phasing out … products from irresponsible practices.” According to Gkoulgkountina, the Dec. 3 meeting was one of several small meetings that the groups had with the Faculty Senate. 

Gkoulgkountina said that in the weeks leading up to the winter break both groups met with Faculty Senate members, in addition to representatives from the Office of the Provost and Library and Technology Services, among others. The purpose of these meetings, she said, was to determine the outlines of the conflict-free proposal and to discuss the questionnaire that the University would send to potential electronics suppliers.

“When we talk about electronics it’s a huge, broad field,” Gkoulgkountina said in an interview with the Justice. “What we determined is that we’re going to focus on a few things: computers, laptops, copiers, servers and scanners—the bulk of the hardware that we buy.”

Gkoulgkountina also said that the Faculty Senate members have been overwhelmingly supportive of CFCI and STAND’s efforts to pass the conflict-free proposal.

“We’re connected to all these people and they’re ready to pounce on the next draft of our proposal and have it come out as an official policy for Brandeis.”

Additionally, Gkoulgkountina said procurement services will also play a large role in the proposal’s implementation, noting that Director of Strategic Procurement John Storti would most likely be the one to contact potential suppliers to see what the companies’ policies are on conflict minerals. Storti did not respond to requests for comment by press time. 

Ultimately, Gkoulgkountina said, the groups’ biggest focus now and in the future is on educating both the community and electronics suppliers. 

Gkoulgkountina said she also hopes that by educating others, CFCI and STAND might change the public perspective of the Congo.

“People don’t really know a lot about the Congo, and they imagine this Heart of Darkness scenario, and it’s really not like that,” she said. “We’re trying to focus on the positives of the situation and what the positives of our involvement can be.”