Saturday, April 30, 2016

Columbia University Apartheid Divest Student Group's April 28, 2016 Letter To Columbia President Bollinger

In an April 28, 2016 letter to Columbia University President Lee Bollinger, the Columbia and Barnard student group that is campaigning for an end to the Columbia University administration's policy of owning stock in U.S.-based transnational corporations that profit from their investments in an Israeli economy whose government continues to violate Palestinian human rights and democratic national self-determination rights--Columbia University Apartheid Divest--stated the following:

"April 28, 2016

"To the Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing and President Bollinger,

"In 1784, the Columbia community renamed King’s College in order to speak to the independence of the nascent U.S. American nation-state. Columbia University emerges from a historical moment that, to this day, continues to structure and inform our relations to this land and its original peoples, the Lenape Nation. Leading up to that moment and to this day, Columbia University has been invested in the practices of settler-colonial occupation.

"We are students representing Columbia University Apartheid Divest, a campaign launched by Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine and Barnard/Columbia Jewish Voice for Peace. We call on the University to divest its stocks, funds, and endowment from companies that profit from the State of Israel’s violations of international law and Palestinian human rights through its ongoing system of settler colonialism, military occupation, and apartheid. This campaign directly responds to a choice made by Palestinian civil society to call for international solidarity.

"Our demands carry the voices of over a thousand community members, including 601 undergraduate students, 190 graduate students, 103 alumni, 75 faculty, and 12 staff members, who have attached their name to our petition, as well as the expressed endorsement of the following groups representing a diversity of Columbia community members: Barnard-Columbia Socialists, Columbia Divest for Climate Justice, Columbia Muslim Students Association, Columbia Queer Alliance, Columbia University Black Students’ Organization, Columbia University Turath, Divest Barnard from Fossil Fuels, GendeRevolution, No Red Tape, and Student-Worker Solidarity.

"We are writing to you, knowing of and trusting in President Bollinger's stated vision of Columbia as a "Global University." In order to uphold a commitment to this vision, the trustees and administration must fulfill their role not only by accepting students from all over the world, but also by taking a stand against regimes that violate basic human rights and the structures by which they are supported. This call extends to Columbia recognizing its past and present role as a colonial institution, one that was built through the practice of slaveryand one that continues in a city founded on broken treaties, and its present complicity in gentrification and displacement through its rapid expansion into Manhattanvile. Given Columbia’s recent divestment from the US private prison system, we are encouraged by the precedent our University community has set by denouncing racial profiling and disproportionate standards of prosecution.

"Our institution should not be considered separate from those affected by and complicit in Israeli human rights violations; impacted communities include students, academics, people of color, indigenous people, religious and gender minorities, refugees, Israelis, and Palestinians both in Palestine and its diaspora. Columbia's investment in corporations that profit from Israeli apartheid has communicated to us that the fundamental dignity and worth of these communities is not the priority of this university.

"One such company in which the University is directly invested is Doosan Infracore co. Ltd., whose products include construction equipment used to build at least one illegal settlement in the West Bank, the Leshem settlement. Doosan also owns the Bobcat Company, whose machinery was used in the construction of the apartheid wall and multiple security checkpoints along the wall. Other University investments show us that divestment from human rights violations is not only moral, but can also be economically successful. The University is currently directly invested in CRH PLC, a corporation which chose to divest from Israel in 2015. CRH has reported a strong post-divestment growth in profit, highlighting the feasibility of making socially responsible and still profitable investment decisions.

"The Advisory Committee's annual reports indicate a continued commitment to ensure that the University's investments meet specific social and moral standards. Your audits of these investments with respect to the private prison industry are a commendable instance of this commitment. We believe that this commitment also requires consideration of the human rights abuses in the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza, abuses associated with and perpetrated by companies in which we may be invested.
"In light of this, faculty members across various departments presented a proposal in 2002 calling for an end to our investment in all firms that supplied Israel's military with arms and military hardware. Students, alumni, faculty, and staff all agreed to attach their name to the 2002 proposal, hoping that our institution would end their complicity in Israel's use of asymmetrical and excessive violence against Palestinian civilians. In the 14 years since this proposal was rejected, Israel has ramped up its violence towards these civilians and its illegal settlement practices to levels unimaginable, even in 2002. We thus call upon you now to not only hold our university to a higher moral standard, but to consider Israel's apartheid system in all its forms, including those that do not involve the direct use of the State's military apparatus, but nonetheless severely violate the rights of Palestinians and the prescriptions of international law.

"In asking for divestment, we join a growing international movement that has heeded the Palestinian call for solidarity. Already, the Presbyterian Church of the United States has divested from Motorola Solutions, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, and Caterpillar. The United Methodist Church and the World Council of Churches have followed suit in divesting from other companies complicit in Israeli apartheid. Student bodies in the University of California system (Berkeley, Irvine, Riverside, San Diego, Santa Cruz, Los Angeles), Loyola University, University of Chicago, Northwestern University, the University of South Florida, and Stanford University have supported divestment. Students and workers at neighboring institutions such as City University of New York and New York University have voted to support divestment. In this context, we demand:

"1.    More transparency regarding Columbia’s investments. Columbia University has failed to make available and accessible the 10% of its investments (direct holdings) to which the public is entitled knowledge. Additionally, information about the region and sector of the full endowment, and remaining 90% (indirect holdings), should be made available to all members of our community in the spirit of transparency and mutual accountability to which the University should be held pursuant and for which the ACSRI was created.

"2.    That research be done on all holdings (direct and indirect) in order to determine if they are complicit in Israeli practices that are illegal under international law. Furthermore, we request the public availability of this research, in pursuit of a socially responsible commitment to transparency and neutrality.

"3.    That the University immediately divest from such companies and make a public statement confirming divestment. Columbia must adopt a negative screen for these companies, to confirm that Columbia will not invest in these companies until they cease their operations in and profits from Israeli apartheid, or until the State of Israel dismantles its apartheid wall and occupation, promotes the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality, and allows Palestinian refugees to return as demanded by the larger Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions solidarity movement in which our campaign is embedded.

"We would like to meet with President Bollinger and other heads of the administration in order to discuss the double standard posed by the dissonance between Columbia's ideals and its current investment in Israeli settler-colonialism. Columbia University Apartheid Divest looks forward to engaging with your Advisory Committee in person and commencing this process.

"Columbia University Apartheid Divest"

Monday, April 25, 2016

`How Harvard Rules' lyrics

There's a filthy rich school in Cambridge
And across the Charles River, too
It got rich by evading taxes
And that's How Harvard Rules.

Enron ripped off consumers and engaged in accounting fraud
While a top Enron executive sat on Harvard's board
A policy group at Harvard got big money from Enron
To produce biased research that backed no regulation
And before Enron went bankrupt and its executives were sent to jail
Enron paid Harvard profs to say "Enron is doing well." (chorus)

Harvard's Center for Risk Analysis gets sixty percent of its funds
From chemical, drug and oil firms like Monsanto, Lilly and Exxon
Dioxin, driver cell phones and second-hand smoke, Harvard claimed it "posed no risk"
Since Dioxin producers, AT & T and Phillip Morris also gave Harvard gifts. (chorus)

Harvard claims to be "non-profit" yet it owns billions in corporate stock
And hundreds of acres of real estate and a New Zealand lumber forest
Harvard Law and Harvard Business School are money-making machines
And Harvard's money managers get $20 million dollars annually. (chorus)

If you're a janitor at Harvard, you don't get a living wage
And they'll try to bust your union if you're a workers who shows some rage
Yet Harvard Corporation is run by billionaires
And if you didn't go to prep school, they prefer you don't study there
Excluded by its admissions office: 90 percent of applicants
Yet only Harvard graduates control the Supreme Court. (chorus)

The Harvard Corporation it meets so secretly
With all minutes kept secret except from the seven trustees
It secretly picks a president who won't challenge corporate greed
So Microsoft gives millions for a new engineering building
Harvard secretly bought up real estate in Boston's Allston neighborhood
And drove out working-class tenants so Harvard's campus can expand. (chorus)

Monday, April 18, 2016

Columbia and Barnard Students Occupy Low Library: Demand Columbia U. Divest Itself Of Fossil Fuel Corporation Investments

In an April 15, 2016 opinion piece  that appeared in Columbia Daily Spectator, two of the students participating in the Spring 2016 sit-in protest inside Columbia University's Low Library administration building--Ricardo De Luca, E Tuma and Lucas Zeppetello--explained why their student climate action group decided to peacefully occupy Low Library:

"To believe in something, and not to live it, is dishonest,' Mahatma Gandhi wrote. That is one of the reasons members of Columbia Divest for Climate Justice and Divest Barnard are currently engaged in a peaceful sit-in in front of President Bollinger’s office. Members of the Barnard Columbia Solidarity Network rallied in tandem on Low Plaza this past Thursday. As a result, the subject of divestment from fossil fuel companies has catapulted to the forefront of Columbia’s campus consciousness.
"After four years of campaigning and engaging with administrative channels, we are demanding that President Bollinger immediately recommend divestment from the Carbon Underground 200 list of fossil fuel companies to the board of trustees.
"We do not know what the outcome of our protest will be, if and how students will be arrested, and whether or not our demands will be met before we are removed. We were well aware of these risks when we planned and initiated this action. In the end, President Bollinger will either commit to recommending divestment and stand with us, or refuse and show his de facto support of the fossil fuel industry’s policy of profit over people. In the coming days, we will see which side President Bollinger is on.
"Civil disobedience is the act of deliberately refusing to comply with certain rules as a form of peaceful protest against the authorities that created them. While our actions may be characterized as `disruptive,' the disruption caused by our sit-in is nothing compared to the disruption already being caused by climate change. As young people, we have an obligation to denounce an industry with a business plan reliant upon destroying our planet and communities.
"When Columbia divests, it will join hundreds of institutions with over $3 trillion in assets under management that have divested since 2012. Although Yale announced partial divestment on Tuesday, we would be the first Ivy League University to fully divest from the Carbon Underground 200 and lead the way for other educational institutions. Divesting from coal alone is not sufficient: We must end our use of this outdated technology to stop climate change.
"The decision to sit in was not taken lightly. It is the culmination of more than three years of campaigning, including raising awareness on campus and engaging in talks with the University administration. We have gathered thousands of student and alumni petition signatures and hundreds of faculty signatures; garnered a vote in favor of divestment in the first ever Columbia College referendum; had exasperating meetings with the Advisory Commission on Socially Responsible Investing; and even met with President Bollinger and members of the board of trustees themselves—a relatively unprecedented phenomenon for a student group—all to no avail.
"Opposition to our demand has centered on the incorrect claim that divesting could threaten to drain the University's financial and human resources. President Bollinger has told members of CDCJ that divestment will not hurt the endowment and that he believes climate change is an important issue, but now it is time to act. When decision-makers lack courage, we must summon our own, take action, and fight for what we believe is right.
"By occupying Low Library, we are stating that this space also belongs to us, the students, and that our concerns and our future should always be at the center of the University’s decision-making processes, and not a marginal inconvenience. We are dissolving the distance between us and President Bollinger, created by so many levels of bureaucracy and ritual. Only a simple truth remains: President Bollinger must use his power to stand against an existential threat long confirmed by the scientific community.
"Climate change is not a problem of technology or of economics; it is a problem of society and culture. The belief in unlimited resources and unrestricted growth is imbued deep in our financial systems. The far-reaching nature of this catastrophe, both in time and space, make causal links and ethical responsibilities hard to discern. However, fossil fuel companies commit clear injustices, and it is unjustifiable for us, as members of such a privileged and influential institution, to benefit from investment in them.
"When those who are meant to lead us have failed and ignored our demands, the responsibility falls on each of us to confront the issue at hand. When the University is compliant with an industry that kills activists, disseminates misinformation, and damages the global climate for private profit, students cannot remain inactive and accept things as they are. In this sit-in, we confront President Bollinger’s neglect.
"The mood in Low right now is one of real courage. We do not know what consequences we will face for choosing to remain in Low Library until President Bollinger recommends full divestment to the board of trustees. To be sure, we are concerned for our own academic, disciplinary, and police records. But those fears pale in comparison to the resolve we have to fight for what we know is right, and to remain focused on getting Columbia’s money completely out of the fossil fuel industry."