by Andrew Ramonas
Issue date: 10/24/05
A GW group protesting the genocide in Sudan's Darfur region is calling for the University to divest from any stocks or bonds of companies doing business in the African nation.
Student Taking Action Now Darfur is following the lead of Stanford University, asking the GW administration to divest in companies that give money to the Sudanese government, which they argue indirectly funds genocide in the region.
"Divestment is a way we can help end genocide," said junior Sara Weisman, a co-founder of the GW STAND chapter. "We want to work with the administration to enable it to show its social conscience."
Weisman said she believes the University is investing in these companies, though she is not certain. At the Board of Trustees meeting Friday in 1957 E St., University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said he could not comment on the specifics of the Darfur divestment campaign because he was not sure if GW invested in companies in the region.
Last week at the Student Association Senate meeting, a handful of STAND representatives asked SA officials to sign a petition calling for the University to divest in companies that do business with the Sudanese government. STAND asked SA President Audai Shakour to bring the issue up with members of the Board of Trustees at its Friday meeting.
Shakour did not bring up the situation, however, because he said he first wants to meet with Don Lindsey, the University's chief information officer to determine if GW is invested in companies that do business in Sudan.
"Our endowment may be affected by these stocks and bonds that we divest in, but people are dying there and we must do the socially conscious thing," said Shakour, a senior, whose father is from Sudan. "If we can do this it will show other schools to take the same action and to start a chain."
"Ultimately, it's in the best interest of the school's administration to be open and honest on this issue," junior Justin Zorn, policy chair of GW STAND, wrote in an e-mail Saturday. "Divestment is an easy and public opportunity to save lives in a place where they're so casually discarded. We want to ensure this institution is never associated with the most heinous crimes on earth."
According to a June 2005 article by The Stanford Report, a publication of Stanford University, Stanford's chapter of STAND was successful in convincing the university to divest in companies including PetroChina, ABB Ltd., Sinopec and Tatneft, which all conducted business with the Sudanese government.
"Divestment is an act that should be made rarely and carefully," said Stanford University President John Hennessy in a June 2005 article. "In this case, it was clear that the genocide occurring in Darfur, which appears to be at least partly enabled by these four companies, is in direct opposition to Stanford University's principles."
-Brandon Butler contributed to this report.