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Students rally for divestment outside Corporation meeting

Monday, February 27, 2006

A group of approximately 50 students gathered on the steps of Faunce House at 11:30 Saturday morning to encourage the Corporation – meeting a stone’s throw away in University Hall – to vote for divestment.

The students braving the 28-degree weather were gathered to “let the Corporation know today that Brown is serious about divestment,” said Scott Warren ’09, head of the Brown chapter of Students Taking Action Now: Darfur and a member of the Darfur Action Network, which planned the rally. Warren said students “just wanted to … show our support for divestment.”

Warren called for the Corporation to take action and do so promptly, pointing out that 10 more people would die in Darfur while the Corporation was meeting. He praised Harvard and Stanford universities and other schools that have already divested from companies facilitating genocide in Darfur, adding that “Brown University has an opportunity to do the same thing today … but they can also kill this whole momentum.” Harvard divested $2.4 million from one company, PetroChina, and Stanford divested from four companies.

The decision, Warren said, “should not be complicated. … Universities should be lining up” to divest, he declared to applause from the assembled students.

The urgent nature of the issue was front and center. Lisbeth Meyers ’06, leader of Brown’s DAN, told gathered students to cheer loudly enough for “the Corporation … to hear us through the windows.” Warren said that if divestment did not occur until months down the line, tens of thousands more people would die in Darfur. “While you’re meeting today there are people dying in the Sudan,” Warren said. “The student body at Brown will not allow the University to be invested” in companies facilitating genocide, he added.

Patrick Schmidt, executive director of the national STAND and a Georgetown University senior, was in attendance and spoke of the movement’s importance. He noted that there are “people throughout the world who stand with Brown.” He also reiterated Warren’s point that “it’s not a complicated matter, it’s a question of justice.”

Just before noon, University Chancellor Stephen Robert emerged from University Hall and announced the Corporation’s decision to divest. He directed his address toward the assembled students. “I can’t think of anything more abhorrent or heinous” than the situation in Darfur, he said, “The Corporation has voted to divest … with a unanimous vote.” He declared investment in companies complicit in genocide “contrary to every value … that we hold dear.”

Robert also commended the assembled students for being there, saying this is “what Brown students should be doing. … I wish Brown students would be more involved.”

Warren told The Herald: “We’re thrilled that the University has decided to issue a statement in favor of divesting. … However, we urge the University to make a list of the companies as soon as possible” to demonstrate its commitment through action, not just words.

In an University-wide e-mail sent after the Corporation meeting Saturday, President Simmons announced the decision to divest, writing, “The administration will proceed to assemble and provide information to the Corporation’s Advisory & Executive Committee regarding companies whose business activities in Sudan can be shown to meet the criteria for supporting and facilitating the Sudanese government in its continuing sponsorship of genocidal actions and human rights violations in Darfur.”

Warren said STAND hopes to work with the administration and that divestment occurs within the next few weeks. He said he was “encouraged” that this would be the case after Robert made his announcement.

Warren added he was very happy to see coverage of the Corporation’s decision in over 60 newspapers worldwide. The rally drew representatives of the press including a reporter from the Providence Journal and a cameraman from ABC News.

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