President Barry Mills plans to make public his recommendations on Bowdoin's investment policy regarding the humanitarian crisis in Darfur within the next two weeks.
Last February, Mills created a nine-member advisory committee to determine an appropriate college response to the crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan. After a period of investigation, the committee issued its recommendations in a letter to Mills and the Board of Trustees in May.
"Over the summer I spent a good deal of time investigating what other colleges have done that are thinking about the problem," Mills said. "I am working and nearly done with coming to my conclusions of what I would recommend [to the trustees]."
Committee chair Gerald Chertavian '87 said that the committee's job was to provide Mills with recommendations, and that Mills would later draft his own proposal to be presented to the trustees.
"We were the first step in the process of gathering information from the students, faculty, and staff and trying to assess the situation," said Chertavian.
"We recommended something with the president and then discussed that with the trustees. The next recommendation will come from the president."
In its letter, the committee said an internal review by the investment staff determined Bowdoin currently holds no investments in the region. The committee urged the College to avoid investing in "companies with Sudanese operations which support the government's policy of genocide there," following in the footsteps of a number of other colleges, including Harvard, Dartmouth, and Brown, that have taken action regarding investments in Sudan.
Additionally, the committee made suggestions for college action on Darfur aside from divestment, including increasing opportunities to learn about the crisis, facilitating student activism, and encouraging charitable donations by the Bowdoin community.
The committee also recommended the establishment of a permanent committee to identify "international problems to which Bowdoin would have a moral obligation to respond."
Chertavian presented the advisory committee's recommendations to the trustees, and according to Mills, the discussion that followed was quite animated.
"The trustees spent about an hour and a half in what has been described by many trustees as one of the most interesting and in-depth conversations that the trustees have had on a very complicated issue where people expressed their views candidly," Mills said. "It's fair to say that views were expressed that were all over the lot on appropriate action for the College to take."
"There are colleges and universities that have taken the position that the sole role of the college and university is educational, and it should not become involved in activism, and that view was expressed. The polar opposite view was expressed, that we stand as a community that must draw a line in the sand when we see something abominable as what's happening," said Mills.
Mills said he told the trustees he would continue to analyze the situation, and that he expected that his recommendations would be made public in the next 10 days to two weeks. He also said they would be presented to the trustees either in the board meeting in November, or in another venue sooner than the next meeting.
In the meantime, Mills encouraged ongoing action by community members.
"There are a large number of students on campus who have been actively involved on this issue in humanitarian ways, in educational ways, and faculty who have been involved. I would encourage all of those folks who are genuinely committed to these issues to continue the education and the effort, because they are vitally important to the way we think about ourselves," Mills said. "And so I would expect that individual campus activism would continue on this subject."
Shelley Barron '09, a member of the Darfur Coalition, a group composed of Bowdoin Students for Peace, Democratic Left, Bowdoin Women's Association, Hillel, and Global Justice, said that she felt the College had a responsibility to do more than divest.
"I think this college has a bigger obligation to take an active role in trying to end the violence," she said. "So I would want to see a lot more action-taking on the part of the College, whether it be student education about the issue, or having a permanent committee that deals along these lines, or significant donations to the Genocide Intervention Fund [now the Genocide Intervention Network], or other organizations that are trying to support the African Union. I think the College has an opportunity to be a significant player."