Recommendation to the Trustees on The Bowdoin College Policy Relating to Darfur
In February 2006 I appointed a committee known as the Advisory Committee on Darfur (ACOD) to recommend to me and the trustees a set of actions to consider in connection with the College’s investments in companies doing business in Darfur and to recommend other actions the College might take with respect to the genocide occurring in Darfur. ACOD was comprised of trustees, including a trustee member of the Investment Committee, faculty, students, staff and the Vice President for Investments.
ACOD prepared a report of its findings, dated May 10, 2006 (the ACOD Report). The ACOD Report set forth recommendations that were made by ACOD after research into the facts surrounding the genocide in Darfur, the policies of the United States government, the United Nations, humanitarian organizations and the policies of other colleges and universities throughout the United States. ACOD conducted a public forum on campus attended by faculty, staff and students. ACOD published information as to its mission and Darfur on the College Web site and solicited advice from the entire Bowdoin community.
The ACOD Report was distributed to the Board of Trustees shortly before the May, 2006 board meeting. On Friday, May 12, Gerald Chertavian, Chair of ACOD, led a brief discussion of the findings of ACOD. In addition, various committees of the Board met on Friday to discuss the ACOD Report. On Saturday, May 13, the Board of Trustees engaged in a lengthy and candid discussion of the issues raised by the ACOD Report. It was agreed that no immediate or precipitous action need be taken on the divestment issue because the College did not own any securities in companies that had been identified by most colleges and institutions as candidates for divestment. At the conclusion of the Board meeting it was agreed that I would consider the ACOD Report and the issues raised by the Board of Trustees and make a recommendation to the Board for action in the near future.
Darfur and the World Response
The mass killing, rape, torture, homelessness and destruction of property and general disregard for human rights in Darfur are recognized by most as morally abhorrent and well beyond internationally acceptable standards of behavior. In July 2004, the United Sates Congress passed unanimously a joint resolution labeling the atrocities in Darfur as genocide. The President of the United States and the State Department have also labeled these activities as genocide. Numerous governments around the world have similarly characterized these activities as morally reprehensible. Human rights organizations around the world have repudiated the genocidal activities of the Sudanese government as well as the rebel forces. The United States prohibits companies organized in the United States from doing business in the Sudan. In addition, important colleges and universities across the United States have registered their opposition to the conditions in Sudan and have established criteria for divestment from companies doing business in Sudan and taken humanitarium actions to support the Sudan people.
Each of the following principles was cited by members of the Board during the discussion on May 12-13, 2006:
Bowdoin is an institution organized for the purpose of education without political, religious or other affiliation. Accordingly, we must generally refrain from taking positions as an institution that are intended to advocate political, moral, religious or economic issues of the day. Our role as an institution is to educate undergraduates and provide an environment for the intellectual life of our students, faculty and staff.
Moreover, Bowdoin was established in 1794 as a college committed to the Common Good. The very mission of the College as understood by generations of alumni has as a core principle the concept of the Common Good. We are required as stewards of the College to ensure that the actions of Bowdoin are consistent with that mission and our core principle of service to the common good as we carry out our mission of the education of the mind.
We are an institution endowed by generous donors whose donations were made to promote and sustain the health and well being of Bowdoin College as an educational institution. We have a legal and fiduciary responsibility to protect and enhance the College endowment.
I believe that the College must adhere to these principles in its governance. The College as an institution (as opposed to individuals in our community) should refrain from becoming embroiled as an advocate in the issues of the day. Moreover, given our important fiduciary responsibility for the endowment, the guiding principles for management of the endowment should be the preservation of capital and prudent investment to maximize return.
However, in what should be the very rare circumstance, where there is universal agreement that crimes against humanity stand in violation of our commitment to the College conception of the Common Good, we must take actions as an institution that are commensurate with the violation in order to stay true to our mission and to reinforce for our community and our successors that our commitment to serve the common good is genuine and enduring. In these extraordinary and very rare situations it is appropriate for actions to be taken by the College that provide the intellectual framework to advocate a certain outcome that may, if deemed appropriate, affect the endowment and utilization of College financial resources generally.
Darfur and the College Response
Based on these guiding principles for the College, I recommend to the trustees generally the proposals set forth in the ACOD Report. It is crucial to emphasize that this recommendation is motivated by the reprehensible genocide presented by the situation in Darfur accompanied by the extraordinary consensus of condemnation by the United States and by institutions around the world, including other colleges and universities.
College Investment Policy
First, the College should divest itself of all direct investments in companies doing business in the Sudan generally in accordance with the standard set forth in the ACOD Report. Since the College does not currently own any equity securities in companies that have been identified for divestment by other institutions, the policy recommended is not strictly a divestment policy, but also a policy not to invest directly in the future in companies to be identified.
Second, companies will be identified that are candidates for divestment in accordance with criteria that establish a company as directly complicit in support of the Sudanese government and provide financial support to the Sudanese government that is utilized to support genocide. Companies doing business in Sudan that may contribute to the economic condition or welfare of the Sudanese people should not be included on a list for divestment.
Third, upon approval of these recommendations by the Board of Trustees, I will appoint a committee of four to refine these criteria and review appropriate companies based on their activities in the Sudan. The committee will include faculty, staff, students and trustees. The Senior Vice President for Investments will be an ex-officio member of the committee. The committee will make recommendations for divestment to me for final approval. In their analysis of Bowdoin divestment, it is intended that this committee will rely substantially on the work and divestment lists completed by other colleges and universities with similar criteria.
The committee will meet semi-annually to determine whether new companies should be added to the list or whether companies on the list should be deleted. The committee will also provide a report to the president annually that considers the appropriateness of divestment policy generally with regard to the Sudan according to the criteria set forth in this recommendation and previous activities of companies investing in Sudan and general the conditions in the Sudan.
Fourth, the College should inform the managers who invest funds indirectly for Bowdoin of our position on Darfur and our position on investment on any identified company. The suggestion in the ACOD Report of consultation with the manager on the identified companies should be pursued if reasonably practicable and consistent with our contractual and legal rights.
Fifth, to the extent a manager has gained net profits from investment of a company deemed subject to divestment by Bowdoin, the manager shall use all commercially reasonable efforts to inform Bowdoin annually of the amount of the net profits attributable to the company. The College will at a minimum annually allocate funds equal to such net profits for purposes set forth below related to humanitarian purposes for the Sudan and will not utilize such profits in the general operations of the College. It should be noted that we do not expect significant funds to be generated since the College (without regard to this policy) has not invested in companies listed as subject to disvestment by other colleges and universities.
The recommendation in the ACOD Report that the College terminate a manager that invests in an identified company is not recommended at this time. Termination of a manager (and engaging new managers) will continue to be at the discretion of the Investment Committee of the Board of Trustees after taking into account factors generally taken into account by the Investment Committee for hiring and terminating managers including, without limitation, the response, if any, of the manager to our investment policy on Sudan.
Most of the colleges and universities that have recommended divestment have not taken the step of terminating managers as part of the policy adopted by these institutions. We are not aware of any manager that has been terminated because of investment in an identified company. As noted in the ACOD Report, the College invests nearly all its endowment and funds through managers, and access to managers is essential to our fiduciary duty to preserve and enhance our endowment. The contractual terms upon which we invest do not permit us to disclose investments by the managers on behalf of Bowdoin, nor do the contractual terms allow the College to direct our managers to invest or divest from any company. Each of our managers has a very diverse pool of companies in their investment portfolio which history suggests makes it very unlikely that any identified company for divestment would represent the only or majority investment in any fund. Accordingly, termination of the manager would result in the College losing access to the manager and the various other investments made by the manager.
Bowdoin will take the additional step, however, as noted above, of divesting any profits that we receive from indirect investment in any company listed for divestment. This will ensure that the College does not benefit financially from the activities of these offending companies. In addition, our policy of divestment of the profits will send a strong message to our managers, reinforcing our policy and demonstrating the commitment of the College to its principles, which should further influence our managers in their investment decisions.
Sixth, this investment policy must be monitored on a regular basis to determine if its continuation is warranted. A critical component of this policy must include a process for removal of a company from a divestment list as well as a review of the advisability of a divestment policy generally with regard to the Sudan.
In recent years, the genocide arising out of conflict between the north and the south in Sudan has been reduced greatly.There is a widely held view that the economic investment by oil companies in the Sudan contributed to the settlement between north and south. Yet, genocide continues in the Darfur region. A peace agreement was signed by the Sudan government and one of the tribes, but not all tribes joined in signing the agreement and reports suggest that genocide is being carried out among the tribes. There is also the view that oil revenues and other economic benefits are critical to the Darfur settlement and that public outrage on behalf of the rebels against the government is only prolonging the misery as the rebels hope the international outrage will provide them more bargaining power. The situation is very much in flux, but the genocide continues. We understand that colleges and universities that adopted divestment policies for Sudan are reevaluating the efficacy of these policies in light of recent events. Accordingly, it will be important for our College to continue to monitor the situation in Darfur so that we can understand the extent to which our position remains appropriate both as an effective policy regarding Darfur and as an effective and prudent policy for our endowment.
Engaging the Bowdoin Community
Bowdoin is an educational institution and, as noted in the ACOD Report, our college must understand and be educated on important issues facing our nation, state and world community. In the case of the Sudan, we have heard among our trustees consistent support for humanitarian efforts by the College and support for the education of our entire Bowdoin community.
The College will utilize the funds referenced above, if any, and other amounts deemed appropriate by the College for humanitarian efforts related to the Sudan. The Dean for Academic Affairs and the director of the Community Service Resource Center will consult with the Bowdoin community and coordinate these efforts. These efforts could include supporting teachers in the Sudan and providing food and supplies. On our campus, these efforts could include seminars or forums for the community on issues relating to genocide generally and the Sudan. These ideas are examples that have been discussed, and there are many other approaches that may be adopted.
There is in my view no compelling need at this time to create another College committee for analysis of world issues. This work is not work for a committee but is the responsibility of all of us in the Bowdoin community as educators and as stewards of the common good. The Dean for Academic Affairs and our faculty should consider ways to incorporate appropriately into our curriculum and the intellectual life of our students and entire community a focus on human rights and social justice in a more intentional manner. One approach is to consider how these issues intersect with our new curricular requirements on international study and understanding social differences. Our planned Center for the Common Good is another avenue for these efforts, as it reflects the intersection of faculty and staff efforts to create both an intellectual grounding and an activist approach to important social issues. These matters are to be determined by our Dean for Academic Affairs and our faculty.
The College should encourage individual activism on these important issues centered on the common good. However, activism is not created or mandated -- it is not the stuff of committees. It is generated out of education, awareness, and should be nurtured and supported by the College. Our efforts in community service are designed to “bubble up” from our students, faculty and staff -- rather than being imposed by the College -- and to demonstrate the effectiveness of activism where the interest is self-motivated. The 25,000 hours of community service performed by students demonstrate the College’s commitment to doing good. That being said, we should also create the environment to increase awareness of national and international social issues that support (educationally, intellectually and financially) active engagement.
The College should continue to inform and enhance its efforts to inform our community and specifically faculty, students and staff about opportunities for charitable giving to support humanitarian efforts in the Sudan. As we did in response to Hurricane Katrina, we should alert our entire community about opportunities to provide charitable assistance. We should encourage and make opportunities available for contributions, but without any implicit requirement or expectation of any member of our community.
The College should communicate its position on the Sudan to the entire Bowdoin community and beyond in the manner suggested by the ACOD Report.
These recommendations will be made public to the entire Bowdoin community in the next few weeks. It is anticipated that the Board of Trustees will vote on resolutions designed to implement these recommendations, subject, of course, to comments and appropriate modifications based on community comment.
Message posted September 20, 2006