The voice of De Anza since 1967.

La Voz News

The voice of De Anza since 1967.

La Voz News

The voice of De Anza since 1967.

La Voz News

    Student governments reassert power: Divestment resolutions sponsor social change

    In an effort to promote socially responsible investing, student bodies across the country – most notably at UC Berkeley, UC Irvine and Harvard – have voted to divest school treasuries from companies that support, for example, Israel’s occupation of Palestine or industries that promote the use of global, temperature increasing fossil fuels.

    Seeking to raise money for their schools, many colleges maintain large endowments with portfolios that often invest in industries that socially minded students take umbrage at, such as multi-national oil corporations and companies that make weapons of war.

    But many feel when colleges invest, they should do so with the same ethical principles embodied by their students, and universities should opt out of supporting industries that may cause societal harm.

    Sadly a number of large universities are not listening to their students.

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    According to The Daily Californian, Berkeley’s administration has pushed back against the democratic will of the student body, arguing, amongst other things, “divestment does nothing to better the lives of Palestinians.”

    But history rejects this argument since divestment was one of the key tools used to successfully convince South Africa to end apartheid.

    Another university that has recently denied a divestment request by its student body is Harvard.

    “We always appreciate hearing from students about their viewpoints, but Harvard is not considering divesting from companies related to fossil fuels,” a university spokesman told The New York Times by e-mail.

    But not all colleges draw a line in the sand on fossil fuel divestment.

    Unity College in Maine, responded by adopting a policy goal of minimizing all financial holdings in coal, oil and gas stocks.
    “Our students are already demanding action, and we must not ignore them,” the president of Unity College wrote to administrators.

    A growing chorus of student governments around the country are demanding that their colleges align their investments with their values and mission statements.

    “As an educational institution, Earlham should consider the impact of its financial investments upon the broader society,” states the college’s website policy on socially responsible endowment investments. “The life and dignity of every person should be respected.”

    Following suit, the DASB Senate is poised to introduce socially responsible resolutions next quarter to augment social change in the community and to bring awareness to the ongoing military conflict in the Middle East and the companies profiting from them.

    “It’s about time that De Anza students make it clear that we do not want our college to support groups or companies that profit from human rights violations,” said Nadine Talaat, DASB executive vice president.

    The bottom line is that students should have a voice about which industries their schools decide to support financially.

    And universities should also provide transparency and easy access to their investment portfolios, allowing students and their families to take that information into consideration as they decide which university they will attend.

    Maintaining financial stability is in the interest of every university, but since these institutions exist to promote individual and societal growth with an eye towards the future, they have an ethical obligation to listen carefully to the collective voice of their students, the future leaders of our nation.

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