Colby Takes Stand on Sudan and Burma

 

On October 21 Colby trustees voted to divest of the College's only direct investment in Sudan and to avoid direct investments in any companies that could financially support the Sudanese government.

By Stephen Collins '74
 

"[This] demonstrates the board's interest in partnering with students to maintain the very high standards of Colby College"

President William Adams
The board agreed that there are some countries whose governments have "crossed a bright line" and engaged in activities that the Colby community declares to be so reprehensible that the College must sever any ties to those places. Sudan is such a country, the board agreed.

Colby also will write to the CEO of one other company that may be doing business in Burma/Myanmar and to managers of pooled investment funds to relay the College's concerns regarding Sudan and Burma. The board included as part of its official action that using the endowment for political expression in this way should be extremely rare.

The boards decision followed an intensive six-month review of the Colleges investment portfolio, which was prompted by student activism in the spring of 2006. A delegation of about 20 students rallied outside trustee meetings in April to press their case for the College to adopt a policy of shareholder activism.

President William Adams said in a statement to the Colby community: "Actions such as divestment should be considered only under the most exceptional circumstances, which could include the placement of a country on the United States list of country-to-country sanctions, followed by a clear understanding and broad international consensus that the country's government is in severe violation of internationally accepted norms for government behavior, followed by Colby's discovery that it holds assets that may support the activities of that government."

President Emeritus and Life Trustee William Cotter cited as precedent the divestiture from apartheid South Africa in the 1980s, when Colby was a national leader in what was ultimately an effective campaign.

"This sets a very high threshold for this kind of activity, and it should be high," Adams told the trustees.

The outcome, he said, "demonstrates the board's interest in partnering with students to maintain the very high standards of Colby College."