Cal Regents Decide to Divest from Sudan
ALEX CHADWICK, host:
This is DAY TO DAY from NPR News.
Yesterday afternoon, the regents of the University of California voted to pull all of the university's investments out of companies that do business with Sudan. It's a protest against the Sudanese government's role in the ethnic violence that's left more than 100,000 people dead.
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
Only twice before has UC decided to divest for non-economic reasons; 20 years ago, when it pulled its money out of South Africa, and five years ago, when the regents dropped investments in tobacco companies. The dollars involved are a small part of UC's investments, but yesterday's decision to divest from Sudan is important on the ten campuses that make up the University of California system.
Frank Stoltze of member station KPCC reports.
FRANK STOLTZE reporting:
Students led the drive to divest from companies doing business in Sudan. In the square outside a University of California regent's meeting at UCLA, protestors gathered for what Student Body President Jenny Woods calls a die-in.
Ms. JENNY WOODS (President, Student Association Council): What we're going to do is just lie down on the concrete here. If you would like, you can definitely move on into the shade. And we're going to remain silent, as a silent, individual recognition of the folks that have lost their lives and those that have been displaced.
STOLTZE: Human rights organizations say Arab militias have targeted ethnic African tribes with government backing. Sudan denies that. The U.S. government calls it genocide. Student Body President Woods says more should be done.
Ms. WOODS: It's our responsibility to take a stand to ensure that we're educating the people around us, and holding our institutions accountable to ensure that we are not perpetuating this violence and this killing. And that's exactly what we're doing today. We're standing up and demanding that the UC regents divest from Sudan.
STOLTZE: The regents unanimously decided to divest from nine companies, mostly foreign oil firms doing business in Sudan. Tens of millions of dollars are involved, but that's still a fraction of the school's overall pension and endowment funds of 66 billion.
The University of California joins the State of Illinois, Harvard, Stanford, and around a dozen other schools pulling money out of Sudan. Activists hope its size will prompt other institutions to follow the UC's lead. Regent Norm Pattiz says the divestment sends an important signal.
Regent NORMAN J. PATTIZ (University of California: I think that one of the ways we can show, in a very real and tangible way, how we feel about the genocide that's being carried on in that part of the world, is to make it very, very clear that the University of California is not going to support investing in those areas, while this regime continues to act in a manner that it is.
STOLTZE: John Moores, a regent and the owner of the San Diego Padres, says what's happening in Sudan is horrible.
Mr. JOHN MOORES (UC Regent): It's a disaster. It's the sort of thing that probably wouldn't happen, in my humble opinion, if most the people over there weren't, weren't black.
STOLTZE: But Moores says he doesn't think the regents' vote will change what's happening in Sudan, and may do some harm.
Mr. MOORES: There's always the chance that when you, you under, undertake stuff like this, you might actually make a bad situation worse. There is a good case to be made for a commercial engagement in the Sudan. It's, it's really a tough call.
STOLTZE: Like Moores, Pattiz voted for divestment; but he, too, is skeptical about the impact of the decision.
Regent PATTIZ: Clearly, it's symbolic. The impact that it will have will depend on whether or not others follow our lead.
STOLTZE: UC students say the international community hasn't been leading the way, and has been a bystander to what's happening in Sudan. They say the U.S. was slow to declare genocide and has cozy relations with the Sudanese government, in exchange for help fighting terrorism.
For NPR News, I'm Frank Stoltze in Los Angeles.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.