To the Bowdoin Community
From: The Advisory Committee on Darfur
To all members of the Bowdoin Community,
As we are all painfully aware, there is genocide being committed in the Darfur region of the Sudan. Since 2003, troops and militias supported by the Sudanese government have been deliberately attacking civilians in a dramatic escalation of a much longer regional conflict. While estimates of casualties vary, it is certain that tens, probably hundreds of thousand of innocent men, women and children have been murdered. Thousands of women have been raped as part of a deliberate strategy of intimidation. Millions have lost their homes. The US State Department has placed the Government of Sudan on the list of states sponsoring terrorism.
In February of this year, President Mills formed this committee to consider if and how Bowdoin is financially and morally involved in this situation, and to recommend a course of action for the College. We will make such a recommendation to the Board of Trustees in time for their May campus meeting. The Trustees themselves will make the final decision on what, if anything, the College does. While human rights abuses are unfortunately all too common, the President and this committee believe that the sheer scale of the atrocities being committed in Darfur and surrounding regions, as well as the unambiguous moral culpability of the Sudanese government, make this case worthy of particular consideration by the College.
Other colleges and universities have focused on divestment of any endowment investments related to financial support of the Sudanese government as a means of action against the atrocities in Darfur, following on the success of the College and University divestment programs in South Africa in the 1980s and early 90s. While American companies are officially banned from doing business in Sudan, there are various international companies who do business in Sudan or with the Sudanese government, most notably in the oil industry, which is responsible for most of the country’s foreign direct investment. The degree of moral culpability of specific companies is a matter of debate, and some provide help for ordinary Sudanese civilians as well as revenue or services for the government.
Any financial involvement we might have with Sudan would primarily be through our endowment, part of which is invested in emerging markets. Bowdoin, however, does not make direct investments. All our investments are handled by third-party investment managers, usually in limited partnerships or “co-mingled funds” where our investments are pooled with those of other institutions. Investment or divestment decisions about specific stocks, bonds or other financial instruments are at the discretion of the individual managers. However, the investment staff at Bowdoin carries out extensive due diligence prior to investing in any fund, including consideration of a particular manager's integrity, code of ethics and investment mandate. The investment staff continually monitors the existing portfolios and evaluates the investment decisions of third party managers.
We would like to hear your views on what course of action the college should take, and have arranged an open, campus-wide forum to be held on Wednesday April 26th at 7.30 pm in Searles 315. We will start with a short presentation, and will then hold an open-microphone session to listen to your opinions. Alternatively, you can email your thoughts to us at email@example.com. To provide more information we have set up a website giving links to relevant sites at www.bowdoin.edu/global-issues/darfur.
The Advisory Committee on Darfur
Gerald Chertavian ’87, trustee (Chair)
James MacAllen ’66, trustee
Henry C. W. Laurence, associate professor of government and Asian studies
Jorunn J. Buckley, assistant professor of religion
Paula J. Volent, vice-president for investments
Mary Lou Kennedy, director of dining and bookstore services
Kevin M. Johnson, academic coordinator, philosophy
James D. Baumberger, ‘06
Emma Cooper-Mullin, ‘07
Message posted April 20, 2006