Campus Coalition Seeks Divestment from Darfur

A group of Trinity students has contacted nearly every faculty and staff member on campus and asked them to take part in an effort to encourage TIAA-CREF, the nation’s largest private pension fund, to divest from several international corporations that do business in Sudan, where almost 400,000 civilians have died in a government-sponsored genocide and approximately 2.5 million people have been displaced. According to a letter sent to faculty and staff on behalf of the student-run Darfur Coalition, “TIAA-CREF has substantial investments in eight international corporations providing essential revenue and services that assist the Sudanese regime in carrying out the genocide.” TIAA-CREF, which handles retirement savings for a majority of Trinity employees, specializes in financial services for those in the academic, medical, cultural, and research fields.

“Sudan is heavily reliant on foreign direct-investment for the revenue it uses to fund its military, including the Janjaweed militia that it is using to carry out the genocide in Darfur,” explains Alex Henry ’07, who, along with Noa Landes ’08 and Bao Pham ’06, helped to organize Trinity’s campaign. “Divestment by schools like Trinity will lead to divestment by larger investors, such as state pension funds.”

Colleges all over the country have joined the campaign, which started at Amherst College after being suggested by Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, an Amherst trustee. The group is providing faculty and staff members with pre-written letters asking TIAA-CREF to divest from Sudan, pertinent information—including addresses, telephone numbers, and fax numbers—to assist those who prefer to craft their own correspondence, and a script to follow when calling TIAA-CREF executives to urge divestment. With its effort coordinated by students associated with the College’s Human Rights Program, Trinity remains one of the leading schools in the campaign, along with Harvard University and Amherst.

TIAA-CREF’s “Policy Statement on Corporate Governance” indicates that the companies in which it invests should “ensure that [their] actions do not negatively affect the common good of the corporation’s communities.” The letter e-mailed to College faculty and staff notes that “numerous sources have documented that much of the government's oil revenue is funding the mass killings, while energy companies provide both revenue and support services for the government and armed forces.” A pro-Darfur Coalition Web site, http://www.tiaa-crefdivest.com, lists the eight corporations and claims that “companies supporting genocide in the Sudan clearly have a negative effect upon their Sudanese communities, in violation of TIAA-CREF’s policy.”

“A high level of private and public divestment from the corporations on which the Sudanese military budget depends will persuade their executives to divest from the region,” offers Henry. “Khartoum can't fund the genocide without corporate investment, and if public and private divestment can provoke corporate divestment, Khartoum won't have any corporate investment until it calls the genocide off. Divestment may be the last hope for the people of Darfur. If institutions like Trinity are unwilling to do their part, divestment will fail, and the genocide will likely succeed.”

For further information about Trinity’s Darfur Coalition, please contact Bao Pham at Baongoc.Pham@trincoll.edu.



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