Wellesley College Takes Stand Against Sudan
Investment Managers to Press Company Executives on Policies
March 28, 2007
Mary Ann Hill,
WELLESLEY, Mass.— Wellesley College President Diana Chapman Walsh has announced actions aimed at addressing the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan.
“Wellesley neither has, nor anticipates having, any direct investments in Sudan,” said Walsh in announcing a plan developed with student leaders and the College’s investment office and supported by the trustee investment committee. “We want to go beyond that simple statement, though, and do what we can to raise awareness in the larger investment community of the mounting crisis in and beyond Darfur. In addition, we want to provide opportunities for our students to work for change.”
“Few U.S. endowments have direct investments in the foreign oil-related companies that are viewed as the principal bad actors in the Sudan,” Walsh continued. “International holdings, typically, are indirect investments in large, fluid and complex commingled funds.”
Beginning this spring, Wellesley’s investment office will distribute a letter developed by the Wellesley Darfur Committee to its investment managers of commingled international funds. The college will ask those managers to inquire about policies related to operations in the Sudan whenever they meet with representatives of multinational and foreign companies identified by the student activists as potentially generating revenue for the Sudanese government.
“We will expect our managers to ask these companies about their policies related to Sudan, to incorporate the answers into their overall assessment of the company, and to let us know what they have learned,” explained Jane Mendillo, Wellesley's chief investment officer. “At a minimum, this should help raise awareness in the investment community. If company executives are hearing from potential investors in large commingled funds, our hope is that they will be encouraged to develop socially-responsible policies.”
“It is important for asset managers who may be unaware of the Sudan divestment movement to see interest in the issue from their clients,” said sophomore Nina McMurry, co-chair of the Wellesley Darfur Committee, who worked closely with the college on the actions. “Wellesley is taking an important step in helping to raise awareness of this global issue.”
“In the context of the larger movement, which encompasses colleges and universities, cities, states, and private pension funds, Wellesley can make a difference,” noted Wellesley Darfur Committee Co-Chair Maggie Tiernan, who, with McMurry, also volunteers for the Sudan Divestment Task Force in Washington, DC. “Sudan divestment legislation is currently pending in 19 states, including Massachusetts. We believe Wellesley’s statement has the potential to add tremendous momentum to these efforts.”
In addition, to help students work directly on Darfur-related initiatives in the United States or abroad, the College will provide stipends of up to $3,000 for summer internships in non-governmental organizations or other non-profit organizations working for change in Darfur. For safety reasons, students will not be supported to work in Darfur, but the stipends will enable them to work with activist groups in the U.S. and abroad.
“Wellesley students can be formidable advocates for change,” said Walsh. “Through these internships, their efforts will amplify Wellesley’s opposition to the atrocities in Sudan.”
Wellesley College has been a leader in the education of women for more than 130 years. The College's 500-acre campus near Boston is home to 2,300 undergraduate students from all 50 states and 65 countries.