The GW Student Association recently passed a resolution encouraging the University to renew efforts to divest from Sudan, a country known for the mass genocide taking place in its Darfur region. This is not the first time the proposal of GW divestment, or withdrawing monetary investments for business or ethical reasons, has been brought to the plate. This time around the idea should be granted serious reconsideration from the new GW administration.
During the latter years of former University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg’s presidency, the group Students Taking Action Now: Darfur urged the administration to divest from companies in dealings with Sudan. At that time, the administration failed to come clean about GW’s holdings in such companies and said it was unlikely to divest. Now a change in administration could be indicative of a change in attitude.
University President Steven Knapp has already begun work on various socially conscious initiatives in his short tenure at the helm of the administration. Knapp has made known his environmentally friendly agenda and has pledged to be a listening president. This page sincerely hopes Knapp is more open to the possibility of divestment, or at the very least makes a true effort to investigate GW’s holdings in companies dealing with Sudan and possible courses of action.
More than a year ago this page called for GW to openly present holdings in companies doing business in the embattled country after administrators claimed ignorance on the situation numerous times. Even if the current administration does not agree to divestment, they should be able and willing to expose such information without having to be asked twice.
Committed student organizations such as STAND and the group Divest: GW have made their voices known. Members of Divest: GW made up a large segment of student presence at Knapp’s inauguration, a ceremony essentially ignored by the rest of the student body. The additional support of SA officials spearheaded by SA Sen. Eugene Beckley (CCAS-U) should indicate to Knapp that this issue will not be fading into the background. This type of dedication and energy from students, albeit select groups, should indicate to Knapp that students care where their tuition dollars are going.
Both old and current administrators point to many logistical difficulties that would result in a decision for GW to divest. While this is a valid concern, it should not be the ultimate cause for dismissal for such an endeavor. Donald Lindsey, GW’s chief investment officer said, “A university as diverse as GW can’t afford to begin making these sorts of judgments.”
Nevertheless, schools across the country such as Harvard University, Yale University, Stanford University and the University of California system have divested. Closer to home, American and Howard have already divested and Georgetown is currently in the process. While there is no doubt that the internal structure varies considerably from university to university, the fact that so many other schools have divested shows that it is indeed possible. Schools are not the only entities divesting; multi-national corporations have managed to do so.
While the actual process of divestment may not in our immediate future, significant deliberation should be taking place to ensure that GW manifests itself as a socially aware institution.