Student Activists Question Investments

 

Concerned over the possibility that some investments in Colby's portfolio may be extended to companies that do business in Burma (Myanmar), about 20 students visited trustee meetings on campus April 8 to press their case for the College to adopt a policy of shareholder activism.

By Stephen Collins '74
 

As the trustees' Investment Committee convened, the group sat in the Schair-Swenson-Watson Alumni Center lobby and engaged several trustees and administrators in dialogue. The demonstration came a week after the Student Government Association (SGA) passed a motion calling for an analysis to see if there are Colby investments in Burma, a possibility that President William D. Adams called "slim."

Before the meeting Adams communicated to students that the Investment Committee had put the issue on its agenda in response to the SGA motion, and concerned students signaled their interest with chalked messages around the alumni center and with signs that they brought into the lobby as the Investment Committee convened. Several administrators and trustees, including Bill Rouhana '72, Richard Schmaltz '62, and Executive Assistant to the President Sally Baker, engaged in a dialogue with the students for more than half an hour. Michael Deheeger '07 spoke on behalf of students, many of whom were motivated by personal experiences working in refugee camps along the Burma-Thailand border. Their message to trustees expressed concern about "the violent, corrupt rule" of "Burma's brutal military junta."


Afterward the Investment Committee issued a statement signaling the board's and administration's essential agreement with the SGA motion, though Adams allowed that there may not be full accord on the timetable for what he called the due diligence process. The committee added Sudan to Burma as an area of concern.


The debate over investments spilled onto campus sidewalks earlier in the semester in a series of chalked messages on the main academic quad, an area where chalking currently is proscribed. As a result the SGA was examining the rules governing chalking as adopted by the College's committee system in the past.


Various communications on the investments issue, including the Investment Committee's statement, are online at www.colby.edu/news_events/investments.
 
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