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Boston Students Rally for Divestment

The Harvard Crimson

By CANDICE N. PLOTKIN
Friday, February 25, 2005


In a candlelight vigil last night, students from across the Boston area gathered to call for divestment, both by their colleges and the state of Massachusetts, from companies tied to the genocidal government of Sudan.

Speakers at the rally, which was organized by the American Anti-Slavery group, cited ongoing atrocities in Sudan and also highlighted new cross-campus efforts to fight such crimes, including the recent Senior Gift Plus movement started by Brandon M. Terry ‘05 and Matthew W. Mahan ‘05 on Harvard’s campus.

Terry, who spoke at the rally, said that he was speaking on behalf of Harvard students who are disappointed over the University’s investment in PetroChina, a company connected to the Darfur government.

“The Harvard model is ‘Veritas,’” Terry said. “Not just ‘Mom I broke the cookie jar’ truth—it stands for moral truth. But you have to put your money where your mouth is, and right now, Harvard’s money is where genocide is.”

As of Dec. 31, 2004, Harvard owned 67,200 shares in the oil company.

Benjamin B. Collins ’06, an original organizer of the divestment movement, said University President Lawrence H. Summers met with him to discuss Harvard’s position, he has yet to receive an official response since their meeting in December.

While Harvard has yet to take a final stance on the divestment issue, many in the greater Boston area are pushing for change.

Yesterday, Massachusetts state senator Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. announced that he will file legislation in March requiring the Commonwealth to divest its pension funds from international companies doing business with Sudan.

He said he was inspired to take action following a meeting with Williams College students seeking divestment, who were partly inspired by similar efforts at Harvard.

According to Jesse A. Sage ’98, associate director of the American Anti-Slavery group, $1.4 billion of the Massachusetts Pension fund has already been invested in companies doing business in Sudan.

The divestment movement is drawing in local leaders, such as Jeffrey Ryan, who was named Teacher of the Year in 2003.

Ryan said at the rally that he was stunned when he learned that part of his retirement fund was invested in companies doing business in Sudan. “I want my hands washed clean of the blood and rape occurring in the Sudan,” Ryan said.

“To see all these individuals speak out in opposition to the silence of Harvard is very frustrating to me,” said Matthew M. Mulder ’05 after the rally. “I think Harvard owes the students who signed the petition and who are withholding their senior gift at the very least an explanation for why they are not divesting.”

Harvard-Radcliffe Amnesty International Co-coordinator Sabine J. Ronc ’07 called for Harvard students to engage in letter-writing campaigns, sign petitions and join an emerging coalition sponsored by the Black Men’s Forum, Harvard African Students’ Association, and Hillel to protest atrocities in the Darfur region.

“When you go see a movie like Hotel Rwanda you can’t leave that movie unaffected,” said Ronc. “Yet many people turn off the television and go on with their lives. This is our chance to actually do something.”

 
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