STAND will be on the right side of history

In the months since the University’s February 2 refusal to divest from companies funding the genocide in Darfur, there has been spirited debate on campus and in the Maroon about how Students Taking Action Now: Darfur (STAND) should proceed. While some have argued that STAND should accept the Board of Trustees’s decision and move on, others have pressed our group to adopt more radical tactics. Unfortunately, there has also been a great deal of misinformation in this publication over the past few weeks, particularly regarding STAND’s policies and finances. We regret that the Maroon has become a forum for personal attacks against our organization and its members instead of debating how we, as a community, can help end this humanitarian crisis even as the University remains complicit in its propagation. That said, we would like to dispel some of the misconceptions in the hope of promoting a more productive dialogue.

Following the announcement of the Board of Trustees’s decision, STAND has decided to keep pressing for divestment in addition to other efforts aimed at ending the genocide in Darfur. We have broadened our campaign by reaching out to staff, community members, media, alumni, prospective students, and our legislators. In fact, STAND has worked with two U.S. congressmen and a senator who have personally contacted President Zimmer to demand a reversal of the non-divestment decision. Additionally, STAND has helped organize a protest outside the Chinese embassy and has lobbied our legislators to approve funding for humanitarian efforts, press for military intervention, and authorize divestment legislation. You can read about our chapter’s efforts in these areas in publications from the Hyde Park Herald to The Nation, but not in the Maroon.

STAND maintains that divestment is the only way for universities, as institutions, to help stop the ongoing genocide. STAND thus objects to the Darfur Action and Education Fund as an alternative to divestment—not because of its financial origins. Many STAND members have even gone so far as to call the fund “blood money,” and they are free to do so, but this is not and has never been the official line of the organization. However, we believe that all possible resources should be used by individuals to end the genocide and that the Fund has the potential to support positive future action on behalf of the Darfuri people and research to prevent such atrocities from occurring again. We are sponsoring proposals to the Fund for the first round of applications and intend to do so in the future.

Regarding funding for our other actions, STAND is an RSO and has always received funding through regular RSO channels. We, like you, are tuition-paying and salary-receiving members of the University community and thus are all tainted by the University’s financial and intellectual support of the regime in Khartoum. We will not become politically paralyzed in an attempt to parse what is only a matter of degree.

STAND and its allies remain committed to working for an end to the Darfurian genocide through divestment, pressure on the U.S. and international community, and fundraising to directly aid Darfuri survivors. The upcoming refugee camp will launch our fundraising campaign for unsalaried teachers in Darfur and will provide multiple perspectives on the ever-growing refugee crisis. We will continue to fight for divestment also because of the ramifications of this debate for all of those struggling for social justice on this campus and for those advocating for divestment across the nation. Our University became the first in the country to justify financial support for genocide in moral terms. STAND and our allies are committed to making the University of Chicago a cautionary tale of what happens when institutions choose to act immorally.

The Darfur genocide has already claimed 400,000 lives. Thousands more will die until UN troops are on the ground in Darfur, and humanitarian assistance is increased. We need to send a message to our government and our university that we will not stand idly by while the Sudanese government perpetrates genocide. As Anne Bartlett of the Darfur Centre for Human Rights said at our rally in March, “Until we send that message to them, they’re not going to change.”