STAND's silent protest puts divestment on agenda

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Protecting

Jon Purdy

NOTICE ANYTHING WITH "CIDE" AT THE END SUCKS? Suicide, homicide, pesticide or, in this case, genocide, are abhorrent things. Protestors ensured Western's Board of Governors were aware that they do not want to fund Sudanese genocide when the board met yesterday on campus.

Protesters braved cold weather in silence yesterday afternoon to make sure the message was clear as Western’s Board of Governors met.

Members of the group Students Taking Action Now: Darfur stood to make a case for targeted divestment during both the University Students’ Council donation announcement and before the meeting of the Board of Governors.

Divestment is the practice of ceasing to invest in companies for ethical reasons. STAND has been working for the past few years to stop Western from investing in companies dealing with the government of Sudan.

STAND drafted a suggested policy for how Western’s operating and endowment fund addresses certain investments relating to Sudan; the policy asks the board to commit to remaining un-invested in any company on the Sudan Divestment Task Force’s Highest Offender list. It sent the suggested policy and a letter to the board last week in the hope of arranging a meeting.

“[The Board of Governors] will be setting up a meeting between STAND, a board member and an administrator,” Western President and Vice-Chancellor Paul Davenport announced at the meeting.

Western is no longer invested in companies on High Offender list, but STAND wants a long-term commitment to ensure such investments would not be made, Jenn Epp, STAND’s vice-president of divestment, said.

Though the details of the meeting have yet to be determined, STAND members were pleased with the progress.

“I’m very happy,” Epp said. “STAND has always wanted to work closely with the administration.”

Matt Reid, one of the undergraduate student representatives on the board, said the next step will have to wait until after the meeting.

“We don’t know [which board member and administrator] will be sitting in on the meeting,” Reid said, “But STAND knows how [undergraduate representative] Richard Wong and I feel about the issue, and that we’re supportive of the student’s position.”

Reid explained administration had some concerns about the potential implications if Western were to start focusing on the moral issues surrounding certain companies, but added genocide was not something to be taken lightly.

“This is an easy decision to make,” Epp said. “STAND’s position is genocide is a clear case where we don’t want to be involved financially in that and that doesn’t have to lead to any further conversation.”

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