Smith College Bans Investment in Sudan
Editors: The report to President Carol T. Christ from the Committee on Investor Responsibility is available online at www.smith.edu/sudan
NORTHAMPTON, Mass. – Citing the Sudanese government’s campaign of genocide in the Darfur region, Smith College has banned investment in companies directly or indirectly supporting that regime.
The Smith College Board of Trustees voted to take that action at its meeting Saturday, May 6, based on a recommendation of the college’s Committee on Investor Responsibility, and after research undertaken at the request of Smith’s president, Carol T. Christ.
“Withholding investment offers the possibility that private organizations in the United States can encourage a policy change in a foreign country, specifically, in this case, the end of the genocidal policies of the Sudanese government,” said Mary Patterson McPherson, chair of the Board of Trustees and member of the Smith Class of 1957. "While the recent peace accord is grounds for cautious optimism," she added, "we still believe that international pressure is necessary and compelling."
The Committee on Investor Responsibility -- comprised of faculty, staff, students and trustees -- recognized that the funds expended on the ongoing genocidal mission by the government in Khartoum come largely from foreign investment in the rapidly expanding Sudanese oil industry. Khartoum has armed and aided Arabic-speaking Darfuri militias who have murdered and raped their ethnic African neighbors and destroyed their villages.
The vote authorizes the Committee on Investor Responsiblity to apply criteria identified in its report to companies doing business in the Sudan and to recommend to the Board of Trustees any companies from which it should ban future direct investment or divest. Smith will not ban investment from companies engaged in solely journalistic or humanitarian activities or companies solely providing retail goods in Sudan.
“The hope is that without foreign investments, the Khartoum government will find it impossible to continue its policy in Darfur and will instead be forced to seek a lasting solution to the regional conflict,” said President Christ.
The board's resolution authorizes the college to alert Khartoum-supporting companies held directly by the college that Smith will divest unless the company takes timely action to withdraw from the Sudan or presents evidence that it does not, in fact, meet the college's criteria for divestment. Smith will not ban investment from companies engaged in solely journalistic or humanitarian activities, or companies whose only business is providing retail goods in Sudan.
Smith has reviewed data on companies reported to be doing business in Sudan and has identified two companies held directly in its endowment that the college will alert of possible divestment action.
As a further step, the Committee on Investor Responsibility will identify and recommend to the Board of Trustees any companies doing business in Sudan from which it should ban future direct investment.
The vote by the Board of Trustees acknowledged that Smith, as a private institution of higher education, relies on the earnings of its endowment to provide the education envisioned by its founder, Sophia Smith. In her will, Sophia Smith specified that the college would have a moral mission through which the wrongs of women would be “redressed, their wages adjusted, their weight of influence in reforming the evils of society…greatly increased.”
In making its recommendation to the Board of Trustees, the Committee on Investor Responsibility cited the research of Smith Professor Eric Reeves, an internationally recognized authority on the humanitarian crisis in Sudan.
Saturday’s vote by the Board of Trustees is the fourth time the board has banned specific investments since a 1979 vote explicitly affirmed that the college’s moral mission must play a role in the investment of its endowment.
The three earlier occasions included bans on investments in South Africa, investments in companies producing tobacco products and investments in a single company, Talisman Energy, Inc., a Canadian oil company with ties to the Khartoum government.
Smith College is consistently ranked among the nation’s foremost liberal arts colleges. Enrolling 2,800 students from every state and 60 other countries, Smith is the largest undergraduate women’s college in the country and has an endowment of about $1.2 billion.
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