By Laura Butler
Approximately 2 million people have been displaced from their homes in Sudan. This is a result of the internal conflict within the western part of Darfur, which began in 2003, according to the CIA World Factbook. 90 percent of the villages in Darfur have been destroyed, often burned to the ground, making the citizens refugees within their own country. Even more threatening are the internal struggles and pain the refugees of Darfur face, including extreme torture, starvation and the use of rape as terrorism and forced breeding. This violence, inflicted mainly by the “Janjaweed,” an Arab-African rebel militia, has resulted in the deaths of roughly 300,000 black African people.
While this violence is occurring thousands of miles away from the United States, members of the Student Senate at Eastern have decided to take a stand against the genocide in Darfur. Several weeks ago, the Senate passed a resolution recommending that the university investigate the investments tied to its endowment account, a $56 million account which provides scholarships for students, said Rob Miller, student rights chair of the Student Government Association.
Miller said the endowment account increases through investments in accounts similar to mutual funds. The EKU Foundation, a separate entity entrusted with the task of handling finances, manages this account. The foundation works with Hirtle, Callaghan and Company in choosing which mutual funds to invest in. The resolution recommends that the funds, which The EKU Foundation has currently chosen to invest, be evaluated to ensure the mutual fund is “Darfur-free.” Miller said through divesting Eastern’s money from the mutual funds, which include businesses with operations in Sudan, Eastern would be making a statement against the Darfur genocide.
“We want to use EKU’s financial power to join the efforts to help end the violence in Darfur and let companies who are complicit to the genocide recognize that it will not be profitable to operate within Sudan,” Miller said.
The proposition from the Senate is not advocating pan divestment, which would remove investments from all companies operating in Sudan, but rather targeted divestment. Targeted divestment would remove funding from the most heavily involved companies, such as Petro China and Sinopec, which are both Chinese oil companies. However, this would not negatively affect the economic welfare of the Sudanese people.
Divesting from these companies would not hurt any American companies, as there are no U.S. businesses operating from Sudan, or impede the endowment account’s returns, Miller said.
“Divestment was effectively used in the Apartheid situation in the late 1900s and I believe it will be effective with the Darfur situation as well,” Miller said. “While policy changes didn’t bring about much of a response, economic stimulus has proved quite successful.”
The resolution to make Eastern’s investments “Darfur-free” passed unanimously within the Student Senate and will now be passed along to The EKU Foundation for approval.
“There are several available mutual funds that are considered ‘Darfur-free’ which have yielded returns similar to general mutual funds, so we really have nothing to lose,” Miller said.
If the foundation accepts the proposal, Eastern will join over 200 other Universities-including Yale, Harvard and Duke-in using economic power to affect the genocide in Darfur. If this happens, Eastern will become the first university to do so in Kentucky.