Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Outcry for transparency and divestment

Long before I was a student here, I knew that the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service and the Institute for Global Leadership were two prevalent institutions on the Tufts University campus. The success of these institutions, along with the popularity of the international relations and peace and justice studies majors, convinced me that Tufts played a role in the world of activism. In fact, it was Tufts' reputation for fostering social and political activism that motivated me to apply.

I felt confident that Tufts would help me become a truly active citizen. It hasn't wholly delivered, however; although Tufts has the power to take a stand against issues like the genocide in Sudan, it continues to remain apprehensive about obliging the reasonable and necessary demands of its students.

According to Physicians for Human Rights, over 400,000 people have died since the genocide in Sudan began in 2003; more than 2.5 million people have been displaced and continue to live in fear and instability.

How can our consciousnesses let these numbers go unheeded? How are these statistics not ringing in all of our ears? And, more importantly, how can we, as members of the Tufts community, take a step to change them?

Divestment is a step universities can take to remove their funds from companies that are directly or indirectly financially supporting humanitarian crises, such as the genocide in Sudan or the war in Iraq.

The most prominent example of a successful campaign, especially in the arena of university divestment, was during the era of the South African apartheid. Another effective divestment campaign occurred in 2003 and targeted Talisman Energy, a Canadian oil company that was supporting the Sudanese civil war.

Although skeptics often view divestment as more of a symbolic statement rather than something that will actually end mass murder and rape, divestment is one of the most concrete ways to help end genocide.

According to the Sudan Divestment Task Force, 70 percent of Sudan's foreign investment fuels Khartoum's military expenditures. If individuals, universities, institutions and states cease to invest (directly or indirectly) in oil companies such as PetroChina, it follows that the Sudanese government will feel the monetary impact.

Each individual's divestment support will influence the practices of other individuals, universities, institutions and states, and large-scale divestment will ultimately be the most successful movement towards stopping the genocide in Sudan.

We cannot indict Tufts for directly funding the genocide in Sudan unless we know where our money is going. Thus, the first step toward socially-responsible investing is simple: transparency of funds.

The next step would be for Tufts to create a committee that would investigate the university's investment practices and examine the investment portfolio. If there is reason to believe that funds are being invested in companies on what the Sudan Divestment Task Force calls the "worst offenders" list, the committee would act accordingly and take the proper steps to divest the funds.

The Tufts Coalition for Endowment Transparency and Democracy will meet with the Board of Trustees to discuss its requests and proposals on Feb. 9, 2007. Hopefully, our outcries combined with those of others around the world will resonate. In truth, I trust that Tufts University will take up the cause of active citizenship on a broad scale and grant us, the Tufts community, our demands for transparency.

Our university promotes the idea of active citizenship and of a moral imperative toward social responsibility, and it encourages its students to promote the same. Transparency, democracy and divestment should not be endeavors that Tufts fears undertaking.

We must remember that we are responsible. We cannot let the words from the Sudan Divestment Task Force be a mockery: "Not on our watch."

While discussing the genocide at a student conference at Harvard on Dec. 3, 2006, Rebecca Hamilton of the Darfur Action Group said, "Things are still worse than they absolutely ever should be for human beings. Our efforts make the situation a little less horrific." If nothing is done - especially in terms of transparency, socially-responsible investing, and divestment - to stop the wretchedness, as Hamilton said, "The scars will remain forever."

Tufts, please listen carefully. Heed the demands of the community. The world needs your help.

Nicole Zeller is a sophomore majoring in Peace and Justice Studies and International Relations.