May 8, 2007

Letter to the Editor

CID and STAND cannot defend their tactics

In my recent Maroon op-ed (“We Cannot Tolerate UCCID’s Tactics,” 5/1/07), I challenged the University of Chicago Coalition for Immediate Divestment (UCCID) and Students Taking Action Now: Darfur (STAND) to first, provide the costs and the benefits of divestment so that students and administrators could make informed decisions; second, outline a procedure for dialogue with the University that would meet both groups’ demands to be “listened to;” and third, commit to the decisions coming out of that dialogue regardless of whether they include divestment or not. In UCCID’s response (“Genocide, Divestment too Urgent to Ignore,” 5/4/07), Sarah Jankowski and Kevin Koll accomplish none of these.

Jankowski and Koll’s claim that not enough dialogue has taken place—they cite the absence of a meeting between the Board and a student-faculty delegation over divestment—is made irrelevant by their failure to agree to be bound by the results of such a dialogue, a move that is shockingly arrogant and dismissive of the intelligence and opinions of their fellow students.

Jankowski and Koll next counter my argument that only a minority of the University supports divestment by claiming that 1,100 students and faculty—a crushing seven percent of the total number of students and faculty in the University—have signed a pro-divestment petition. Will someone please tell CID that a majority requires fifty percent or more? To contextualize CID’s argument that seven percent of a community should dictate the entire community’s policy, the radical xenophobe Jean-Marie Le Pen received over 10 percent of the vote in the latest French presidential election. Numbers matter, and divestment’s advocates are currently a fringe minority within the larger University community.

Regarding the cost of divestment, Jankowski and Koll claim that cost does not matter when fighting genocide. But cost does matter because if UCCID and STAND really wanted to do some good in the world, they would devote their resources to the issues and the actions where they would make the most difference. If divestment costs a lot, and accomplishes little, it is a foolhardy policy.

Unable to show that divestment will make a difference, Jankowski and Koll go so far as to assert that the University’s divestment could potentially stop a day’s worth of violence in the Sudan. But they themselves admit that they have no reason to think that this will happen, and they do not even attempt to determine the result of the numerous divestments that have occurred. The fact remains that UCCID and STAND have no idea whether the University of Chicago’s divestment will save even a single life in Darfur.

Lastly, Jankowski and Koll critique my entire project by saying that I should be fighting genocide, not them. But when UCCID and STAND’s actions forego more effective action on more important issues (thirty times as many people die of AIDS each year than die in Darfur, by STAND’s own calculation), and when UCCID actively seeks to harm the University in order to hijack University policy, my critique remains the only reasonable response.

Reynold Strossen

Third-year in the College