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Students attack University of Wisco
Subject: Students attack University of Wisconsin investments
Students attack UW investments: Coalition asks university to divest in
countries with questionable human rights records
by Jon Segal, Beat Reporter
The Badger Herald (UW-Madison, Feb. 13, 1996, p.2)
A coalition of student groups recently pressued UW-Madison to stop
investment in companies doing business in countries with human rights
The Coalition for Socially Responsible Investment has formally
requested that UW take their money out of companies which do business in
Burma, Nigeria, East Timor, Indonesia, China, and Tibet, because of those
countries' human rights violations, according to CSRI organizer and FBC
The Coalition includes members of UW-Greens, Students for a Free
Tibet, and the Free Burma Coalition
Zarni said teh UW invests in several companies that do business in
and with these countries, including Pepsi, which is currently under FBC
boycott due to its activities in Burma.
"UW's original founders did not envision the university as an
institution for perpetuating oppression," Zarni said. "In reality today,
what UW is doing through investment is contrary to its charter."
Wisconsin Statute 36.21 (1) states: "No such investment shall be
knowingly made in any company, corporation, subsidiary, or affiliate, which
practices or condones through its actions discrimination on the basis of
race, creed, or sex."
According to Zarni, Regent Dan Gelatt, and sources within the UW
law school, this law was conceived in the 1970's as a response to South
Africa's policy of apartheid. It required UW to take its money out of any
company that did business there.
Zarni said UW clearly violates this statute through its investments
in companies that do business in Burma and Tibet.
However, Gelatt, chair of the Board of Regents Business and Finance
Committee, said he was personally reluctant for the board to make
independent decisions on the human rights records of companies, relying
instead on the guidance of the U.S. State Department.
"It is not easy for UW to know which companies are doing business
in which countries," Gelatt said. "I'm not anxious to spend a lot of time
on those issues when the Board of Regents is concerned with finding the
money to run the university."
According to Gelatt, UW is currently consulting its counsel to
determine whether it stands in violation of Wisconsin. He said the board
currently did not plan to pull out of the companies, but also that it had
not reached a final decision.
"I expect there will be a public discussion of these policies this
spring," Gelatt said. "I'm reluctant to project the outcomes of such
Zarni said he did not think change in policy would come easily.
"I don't think the regents will act without sufficient support, so
we'll have to mobilize the student body," Zarni said. "We're not asking
anything radical or illegal, just for UW comply with state law, which they
are not doing."
Our Coalition's response to the article:
The Badger Herald
550 State Street,
Madison, WI 53703
February 13, 1996
RE: Students attack UW investments (The Badger Herald Article, February
As organizer of both the Coalition for Socially Responsible Investment
(CSRI) and the Free Burma Coalition, I would like to thank the Badger
Herald for bringing the issue of "socially responsible investment" to the
attention of the campus community.
I do, however, wish to point out several important matters which the
article inadequately explains, or fails to mention.
First, the Coalition enjoys a far broader level of support than is
portrayed in the article. As a matter of fact, CSRI has strong backing
from the following organizations and individuals: UW-Madison organizations
such as Teaching Assistant Association, Community Action on Latin America,
Asian American Student Union, International Women's Rights, East Timor
Action Network, Students for the New Progressive Party, Student Labor
Action Coalition, and Progressive Student Network; labor groups such as
Wisconsin Fair Trade Campaign and UNITE; citizens' groups such as National
Family Farmers' Association, Wisconsin Tibetan Association, and Democracy
Unlimited; individual faculty members in various departments and schools,
and similar groups from other UW campuses including Milwaukee, Whitewater,
Oshkosh, Steven's Point, and Eau Claire.
Second, the Coalition's effort to ensure that a public land-grant
university such as Wisconsin do business ethically and responsibly as
required by Wisconsin State Statute 36.21 (1) is part of a larger social
movement that is taking root on US college campuses. The ultimate goal of
this "socially responsible investment" project is to demand the merging of
moral and ethical values with business practices at our universities.
Similar projects are being launched at colleges and universities, including
Stanford, Georgetown, and University of Virginia, schools not necessarily
known for liberalism or activism.
Third, during the New Year's break, the Coalition hosted a national meeting
of organizers from across the US. The primary outcome of this meeting was
that national teach-ins on the subject in question will be held on US
campuses October 13-19, 1996.
In the light of the aforementioned, it would be a mistake for the Board of
Regents and the University administration to take our demands lightly,
thinking that we are yet another group of idealistic and emotionally driven
It is tragic that our great University of Wisconsin apparently finds it
honorable to do business with those multinationals which bankroll
dictatorships, thereby violating the Wisconsin Statute 36.21 (1).
Members of the Coalition intend to engage the Regents in a respectful
manner. And while we do hope for the best, we are prepared for the worst.
Organizer (CSRI and FBC)
When spiders unite, they can tie down a lion. (Ethiopian Proverb)
Free Burma Coalition