OP-EDS

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April 18, 2006

Divest From Sudan

Freedom of academic inquiry is critical for the operation of any university, and U of C professors certainly need it, whether they are proposing the relationship between abortion and crime or the power of an informal “Israel Lobby.” Commissioned in 1967 by the University, the Kalven Report, which sets the guidelines for the University’s role in political and social issues, is the ultimate expression of the aims of a university—and rightfully so.

The Kalven Report establishes that the University operates to facilitate debate and academic inquiry. By taking explicit social, moral, or political stances, the University would marginalize the opinions of a group that might disagree. If done only once or twice, this might be an inconsequential toll. But if done repeatedly, the University only succeeds in creating an atmosphere contrary to the aims of education.

But the Kalven Report has not been absolute in its protection of academic inquiry. Numerous exceptions have obviously been made, whether they are University positions on military recruitment, ROTC meeting on campus, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” affirmative action, or the employment of migrant farm workers by Taco Bell. In all of these instances the University has decided to monolithically promote a certain political or social policy.

Regardless of whether or not these were good decisions, it is deeply troubling that the University hides behind the Kalven Report even when it need and ought not do so. The Kalven Report explicitly allows for the University to take action when its corporate ties involve an issue of exceptional social concern.

Sudanese genocide might be the most tragic event of this decade, but it apparently holds no water against the students dressed as tomatoes for whom the University caved. And in that case, an entirely legitimate argument can be made in favor of the mutually beneficial nature of migrant labor. In the case of Sudan, divestment would actually help the situation in the region and illustrate true corporate responsibility on the part of the University.

So let’s have a coherent, principled policy. If we remove the paper-thin defense provided by University investment officers, we can stop profiting from genocide.