The Board of Trustees has voted unanimously to refrain from directly investing in companies with business dealings in Darfur, and to avoid indirect investment in such companies if possible.
Saturday's vote approved President Barry Mills's recommendations, issued September 20, on the College's response to the humanitarian crisis in Darfur. Those recommendations followed a report by an advisory committee that he appointed in February to analyze the crisis and propose appropriate college action.
Bowdoin does not currently have any investments, direct or indirect, in Darfur, the College has stated.
"I'm very pleased that the trustees were willing to go along with the recommendation that I made," Mills said in a visit to Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) on Wednesday night. "This was not a slam-dunk...There was certainly general consensus, but people have different views."
In his recommendations, Mills agreed with the advisory committee that the College should not make direct divestments in companies with business dealings in Darfur.
Mills broke with the committee on whether to terminate fund managers that would not avoid investing in such companies, though he did recommend that any profits from such investments would be diverted to charity.
Mills also rejected the committee's suggestion to create a permanent college committee that would identify "crimes against humanity."
A number of other colleges and universities, including Amherst College, Harvard College, and Yale University, have also adopted a range of non-investment policies.
James MacAllen '66, a trustee and a member of the advisory committee, said that he was glad to see Mills' recommendations passed.
"I think it's a great synthesis of different opinions, and it also lays out some standards, some values that we need to consider if something like this ever comes up again," he said.
MacAllen also said that he was not disappointed with the differences between Mills' and the committee's recommendations.
"We were working under some significant time pressure, and we did not have, I'd say, sufficient time to gather a lot more opinion that might have conflicted with what we originally were proposing," he said.
James Baumberger '06, another member of the committee, was also enthusiastic.
"I had thought that there might be some reservations on the board about making such a statement, because of a general unwillingness to get involved in mixing politics with investment decisions," he said. "But, I'm glad they were able to move past that and make a relatively strong statement on Darfur."
Liz Leiwant '08, Hillel representative and president of the Darfur Coalition, said that while a divestment policy is laudable, it is not sufficient.
"I think that it's good that they passed the recommendations, but I think that it doesn't let the College off the hook," she said. "The fact that they included the clause about creating seminars and forums and discussions, I think that's important, but I think that the one key thing that was missing was any kind of institutional mechanism so that the College can react faster next time. Student activism takes a lot longer to get the attention of trustees than if there was a way to directly petition."
Class of 2008 Representative Clark Gascoigne '08 also said that BSG wanted to see a similar mechanism.
"We [BSG] support everything that's in [Mills' recommendations]," he said. "The only thing we wanted in addition was this committee. We're still going to work to try to have some sort of structure in place for future situation like this."
Gascoigne said that the issue is on BSG's agenda for the next few weeks.
At Wednesday's BSG meeting, Mills said that he was pleased with what he called 'increased levels of activism' on campus.
"I'm pessimistic because the world seems to be a place that needs more activism, but optimistic that the campus seems to be getting engaged," he said.
In an interview with the Orient, Mills said that although the situation in Darfur is unusual, similar conditions in other areas of the world could lead to similar actions in the future.
"I think that if circumstances in the future arise where all of the facts and circumstances that created the momentum for us to take action occur...then this would serve as a model," he said. "For that to happen, all the facts and circumstances described in the memo would have to occur."
As part of the recommendations approved by the trustees, Mills said that he would appoint a committee "either before Thanksgiving or shortly after" to identify offending companies in which the College would avoid investing.