Bowdoin Acts in Response to Darfur Genocide

Story posted November 10, 2006

The Bowdoin College Board of Trustees has voted to divest any direct holdings by the College in companies doing business in the Sudan and to avoid future direct investments in companies that sustain genocide through their support of the Sudanese government.

The unanimous vote, taken on Saturday, November 11, 2006, during the trustees' meetings in Boston, was in support of recommendations issued by Bowdoin College President Barry Mills following nine months of study and deliberation on the issue by trustees, faculty, students, and staff.

Calling the situation in Darfur "... morally abhorrent and well beyond internationally acceptable standards of behavior," Mills pointed out that as an educational institution without political, religious or other affiliation, Bowdoin typically does not and should not become "...embroiled as an advocate in the issues of the day," but rather should work to educate students and others about these issues so that they can make up their own minds and act accordingly. He also noted that while the College is obligated to manage its endowment in a way that preserves capital and maximizes returns, in the case of Darfur, the College must act.

"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...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," wrote Mills.

Since Bowdoin does not currently maintain direct investments in companies identified as supporting the genocidal policies of the Sudanese government, Saturday's vote by trustees was seen as establishing a policy dealing with any future investments. A college committee will be created to identify companies in which investment will be prohibited.

In February, Mills appointed a committee of trustees faculty, students, and staff to examine the Darfur issue, and to recommend a set of actions in connection with Bowdoin's investments in companies doing business in Darfur. The committee issued its recommendations in May, after conducting 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. The committee's report was circulated to Bowdoin trustees at their campus meetings May 11-13, after which it was agreed that President Mills would consider the committee's report in issuing specific recommendations for action by the Board of Trustees in November.

Mills's recommendations were published in a letter to the Board of Trustees in September that was posted on the Bowdoin Web site.

The recommendations approved by the trustees require the College to continue to monitor the situation in Darfur and to ensure that Bowdoin's policies remain effective as well as prudent for Bowdoin's endowment. The recommendations also call on the College to raise awareness on campus about events in Darfur and to expand educational programs including seminars or forums for the community on issues relating to genocide generally and the Sudan.

A group of Bowdoin students known as the Darfur Coalition have organized a series of events for the week of November 13 to raise awareness on campus about the situation in Darfur. These include films, panel discussions, participation in a vigil taking place in Portland, and the facilitation of donations to the Genocide Intervention Fund.

(Posted 11/13/06)

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