This week, President Barry Mills issued his recommendation for the College's position on non-investment in Sudan. The proposal includes many, but not all, of the recommendations made by the president's Advisory Committee on Darfur (ACOD) in May. Mills has created a strong proposal that underscores the College's responsibility to act ethically in all areas of operation. His recommendation is thoughtful, clear, and does not place the College's financial interests at risk.
The proposal contains many components, and we encourage readers to examine the entire document, which can be accessed from the Orient's web site (orient.bowdoin.edu). The most noteworthy component involves the College's holdings in funds operated by investment managers. Should managers invest in companies that the College has "deemed subject to divestment," Bowdoin will divert its profits from those companies to humanitarian relief organizations.* That component goes beyond the policies of other colleges?most institutions that have taken a stand on non-investment simply discourage their managers from buying certain investments.
The ADOC, on the other hand, recommended that managers who invest Bowdoin's funds in such companies should be subject to termination. In his recommendation, Mills argued that access to managers is imperative for the College's fiduciary duty for protection and growth of the endowment. Given that the termination of a manager by Bowdoin?and Bowdoin only?would likely do little to change his or her investment choices, Mills's stance seems to be a reasonable analysis of the costs and benefits of such a policy.
In his letter, Mills correctly noted that action on the Darfur issue will be largely symbolic. The College does not currently hold investments?direct or indirect?in any companies commonly deemed subject to divestment by other colleges. The policy would act as a plan in the event that a fund manager decides to invest in one of these companies in the future. However, the policy will still have an effect today by showing the investment and political communities that Bowdoin cares about, and is willing to take action on, the genocide in Darfur.
This symbolic display is not yet certain, though, since Mills's recommendation is not the final step. The Board of Trustees still needs to consider his proposal. A positive vote by the trustees is not guaranteed, and we fear that silence on campus could hinder the movement from proposal to policy. Therefore, we urge readers to make their voices known, individually and collectively.
Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) should start by passing a resolution in support of Mills's recommendation. In the past, this page has encouraged BSG not to take a stand on political issues. The non-investment policy now under consideration is not a political issue. Rather, it is an issue of humanity and institutional responsibility. When we, as students, profit from people halfway across the world, we also shoulder responsibility for ensuring that these profits are not hindering their well-being.
We also encourage the faculty to pass its own resolution supporting Mills's proposal. Faculty meetings are often mellow events, with the most agitated debate occurring during discussion of parking problems on campus. But there are times when the faculty has a responsibility to act together to protect the campus and its principles, and this is one of those times. The faculty should debate Mills's proposal and offer its stamp of approval or suggest changes.
By walking the grounds of this campus each day, students, faculty, and administrators are immensely privileged. We live and work in an environment that urges us to use intellect for the advancement of knowledge and justice. We are supported in this effort by a half-billion dollar endowment.
Community support for the proposed policy?and the enactment of it by the Board of Trustees?will show that we are capable of carrying the responsibility that accompanies this great privilege. And, we are hopeful that in a small way, our small college in Maine might be able to help the people of Sudan, too.
The editorial represents the majority opinion of The Bowdoin Orient's editorial board. The editorial board is comprised of Bobby Guerette, Beth Kowitt, and Steve Kolowich.
* Correction: Due to a typographic error, the second paragraph of the print version contained an incorrect replication of material quoted from the president's report. The president recommended that profits should be diverted from companies that the College will have "deemed subject to divestment," not investment. The Orient regrets the error.