Students Taking Action Now: Darfur (STAND) activists snuck into the downtown Gleacher Center on March 1 in an attempt to disrupt a meeting of the Board of Trustees and force the University’s governing body to reconsider its decision against divestment from Sudan.
The 13 members of STAND walked in on about two dozen Board members and administrators as they were eating lunch. The students refused to leave until they met with Board Chairman James S. Crown.
Crown met with the students but turned down their request for divestment and refused to allow them to address the Board.
STAND members said their surprise appearance was the start of an “escalation strategy” intended to force the University to divest. The student activists maintained a low profile at the downtown campus of the Graduate School of Business by dressing up in suits and entering the building independently so as not to attract attention. Once inside, the students regrouped and attempted to enter the Board meeting.
Administrators do not plan to reconsider the issue, said David Greene, vice president for strategic planning.
“The Board considered the issue carefully and acted on the issue,” he said. “They knew that it would not make everybody happy.”
Greene said the decision did not concern the University’s stance on political action—described in the 1967 Kalven Report, which restricts the University from taking positions that could jeopardize its climate of free academic inquiry—as much as the expected impact of divestment.
“There’s been quite a bit of divestment from other universities, and it hasn’t led to the change people hoped,” Greene said. “The question is not whether we should act, but how can we act.”
The administration’s creation of the $200,000 Darfur Action and Education Fund “clearly fits within the mission of the University,” he said.
The fund, created in part by a donation from Crown, will support student or faculty projects that are related to Darfur and that “lie within the general educational spirit of the University,” according to the fund’s website.
STAND members believe the fund consists of “blood money,” said Mike Pareles, a fourth-year in the College and cochair of the group.
“It’s money that the University has received from profiting from the killings of Darfurian civilians,” he said. “It’s essentially a distraction meant to turn attention away from their support of the Khartoum regime.
“Anything less than divestment does nothing to stop the genocide,” he said.
Pareles said STAND intends to continue protesting until the University changes its stance on divestment, but declined to give specifics.