After much pressure from students and faculty, during the UC Board of Regents’ bimonthly meeting at UC San Diego last week, one of the main topics discussed was the divestment of over $100 million from its business holdings in Sudan due to concern over the atrocities committed by the Sudanese government.
However, due to lack of sufficient information from the UC Office of the President regarding the effects of divestment, the board has rescheduled to vote in March.
The board decided to form study groups to research the outcomes of divestment. It was also decided that the UC will notify companies in Sudan of their consideration to divest their stock holdings.
Since early 2003, the Sudanese government has committed genocide in the city of Darfur, killing approximately 400,000 non-Arab Africans. So far, Harvard, Stanford, Dartmouth and the states of Illinois, New Jersey and Oregon have divested from Sudan or restricted investments in certain foreign companies. Supporters of divestment feel that it will place economic pressure on the Sudanese government to end the genocide.
UC students and faculty have argued that the UC’s investment in Sudan is, in effect, supporting the Sudanese government. Upon inquiry by students, the UC acknowledged last spring that it had invested approximately $132 million in eight companies that researchers had identified as contributing to Sudan’s military expenditures; however, the UC did not hold direct stocks with these corporations.
According to Edward Alpers, UCLA professor in history who holds a seminar regarding the Darfur crisis, the issue of withdrawing funds from Sudan is no different than the withdrawl made by the UC in 1986 from the apartheid South Africa. It is widely viewed that the United States’ divestment from South Africa was a major factor in ending apartheid.
‘In view of the disastrous human rights violations in Darfur, can we afford not to divest?’ Alpers asked during the board meeting.
Further investigation must be made as to the proper divestment procedures. Because the UC invested in indexes composed of numerous companies, the UC must divest from a group of companies rather than picking and choosing which individual companies it plans to withdraw from. While it desires to divest from companies that support the Sudanese government, the UC does not want to divest from indexes with companies that support the Sudanese people.
Regent David Lee recently told the Daily Bruin that ‘by taking economic investments out of poor countries, institutions run the risk of making life harder for already poor residents of that country.’
The board plans to research the four companies that Stanford divested from. However, students stress that the board should look into as many companies as they can. According to investment research firm KLD Sudan Compliance Service, as many as 120 foreign companies may be directly or indirectly supporting the Sudanese government.
Approximately 200 students attended the divestment meeting, and many were disappointed that the board did not place its final vote for divestment. Outside the Regents’ meeting, students rallied with signs that read, ‘Stop the dollars, stop the dying.’ In addition, a memorial was held in which students lay silently on the ground to symbolize the dead of Darfur.