MIT Chooses to Divest From Sudan

Amount to Be Divested and Companies Involved are Not Publicly Named

Ending months of speculation, MIT yesterday released a statement on the issue of divesting from corporations involved with the Sudanese government.

According to the statement, the MIT Corporation's Executive Committee has decided to review "the securities portfolios over which it may exercise direct investment discretion and will divest as appropriate for those portfolios to exclude securities that would violate MIT's investment principles."

The statement does not clearly state what these "investment principles" are, but does say that "MIT invests for the purpose of preserving the capital of MIT's endowment and earning a return on capital that is consistent with MIT's long-term investment horizon … [but] will not invest in a company whose actions or expressed attitudes are abhorrent to MIT."

It is not clear how much money may need to be divested or what companies may be involved. Secretary of the Corporation Kirk D. Kolenbrander said that "as a matter of policy, MIT does not discuss" its investments.

Kolenbrander added that assessments of MIT's investments have been made and that the MIT Investment Management Company "is in the process of making sure [all holdings are] in compliance" with MIT's investment policy. Kolenbrander declined to comment on how long it would take to achieve compliance.

The Advisory Committee on Shareholder Responsibility passed its recommendations to the Executive Committee in early April. It is not clear if yesterday's statement agrees with the ACSR's recommendations, since the recommendation was not released publicly. Kolenbrander declined to comment on the issue.

MIT has been considering the issue of divestment since early September 2006. Since then, the MIT community has taken part in the debate by drafting and signing petitions on both sides of the issue. The Undergraduate Association and the Graduate Student Council passed a joint resolution supporting targeted divestment "from offending companies doing business with the genocidal government of Sudan."

Eric G. Weese G, former GSC president and a student member of the ACSR, declined to comment on yesterday's statement.

Kayvan Zainabadi G, who authored a petition supporting divestment, said that the statement is encouraging but added that he is "still cautiously optimistic." "We really have to see how and when it's implemented before we can pass any real judgement on the statement. … I really hope this time that the Corporation will attempt to include some of the leaders of the divestment movement and make the whole process much more transparent."

Mustafa G. Dafalla '09, who argued last fall that divestment is not constructive, said yesterday that the Corporation "spent a lot of time thinking about it … the statement was carefully crafted and the upper administration were under a lot of pressure, so the outcome doesn't really surprise me."

Dafalla and Zahir A. Dossa '07 traveled to Sudan in January 2007 in order to measure the feasibility of selling foot-powered irrigation pumps to farmers in the region. It was an early step in launching what both students said they hope will be a sustainable non-profit.

"I'll continue to work toward making positive changes," Dafalla said. "I hope that one day people will follow suit."

Students plan to continue sponsoring events designed to raise awareness about Darfur. There will be a "MIT Die-In 4 Darfur" held this Thursday at 11:45 a.m. in Lobby 7. The event, which Zainabadi helped organize, is sponsored by MIT-STAND (a student anti-genocide coalition) and Grad Hillel.