Still Awaiting Decision on Sudan

After Almost Three-Month Long Hiatus, Committee Will Meet in March

A decision on whether MIT should divest from corporations involved with the Sudanese government will have to wait until at least early March. Although the last meeting of the Advisory Committee on Shareholder Responsibility was on Dec. 15, the next meeting will be at the beginning of March, close to the next MIT Corporation meeting on March 2, said Michael Baenen, staff to the ACSR. The delay of almost three months has made some students and ACSR members unhappy.

Graduate Student Council President Eric Weese G, who is also a voting member of the ACSR, said he is “upset by the long delay between meetings.” Undergraduate Association President Andrew T. Lukmann ’07, also a voting member, said that he is very surprised by the delay and that he thought deliberations had been wrapped up at the December meeting.

Both Baenen and Lukmann said that they do not know if any decisions will emerge from the March meeting. Lukmann said that he will stress to the committee the importance of “finish[ing] this up.”

Kayvan Zainabadi G, who started circulating a petition supporting divestment last fall, said that he e-mailed Baenen, expressing his concern over the delay. He said he did receive a response to that e-mail, but has not yet received a response to the e-mails he sent on Sunday to President Susan Hockfield, Secretary of the Corporation Kirk D. Kolenbrander, and Ann F. McNamara, an administrative officer in the Office of the President.

Baenen said that a meeting was not held during the Independent Activities Period because of the conflicting schedules of committee members. He acknowledged the delay, saying that “the committee certainly understands that the community is … eager to hear its thoughts.” He also said that the committee knows that the community is looking for a resolution.

Meanwhile, Zainabadi is coordinating a lecture by Karen Hirschfeld, Sudan coordinator for the group Physicians for Human Rights. The group has published a report called “Darfur — Assault on Survival: A Call for Security, Justice, and Restitution.” The authors of the report write that “Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is adding to the mounting evidence of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide perpetrated against non-Arab civilians in Darfur.” In a footnote, “non-Arab” is identified as “non-Arab indigenous people (represented primarily by the three major ethnic groups, Fur Zaghawa and Masaslit) often referred to as ‘zurga’ or blacks.”

Hirschfeld will speak on Thursday, March 1 at 6 p.m. in Room 10-250, Zainabadi said.

Zainabadi also said that he recently received a copy of a letter from Michael Capuano, who represents Cambridge and Somerville, among other towns, in the US House of Representatives. The letter was sent to Shankar Mukherji, co-president of the MIT Chapter of Amnesty International. About 200 letters and postcards, some written by MIT students, were sent to Capuano in December, asking for an additional $60 million for the African Union forces already in the country. Capuano wrote that a resolution for $50 million more for the AU forces passed in the House of Representatives on Jan. 31.

In December, the UA and GSC passed a joint resolution supporting MIT’s targeted divestment from certain corporations involved with the Sudanese government. The resolution followed a debate during a UA Senate meeting about whether divestment was a good choice or not.

In late November, Mustafa G. Dafalla ’09 argued that divestment would not solve the problems in Sudan. “If MIT is about divestiture and not about initiatives, how can we honestly say we are part of the solution?”

Zainabadi has gathered 499 signatures on his petition, which states that “Certain international companies, by conducting business operations in Sudan, bring direct foreign investment dollars to Khartoum and provide both moral and political cover to the Sudanese regime.” The petition asked for MIT to divest by Dec. 31, 2006.

Dafalla drafted a petition of his own, which stated that “Divestiture would be counter-productive to the goal of ending the suffering of millions of people, and would actually result in supporting the death of thousand more, and an overall decline in the quality of life of the individual citizens.” That petition has gathered 96 signatures.

Dafall said that he really hopes that “the length of deliberation is a testament to giving the issue serious thought, instead of just jumping on the bandwagon.”