Coalition Lobbies NU To Break Economic Ties With Sudan

Elise Foley

By Elise FoleyThe Daily Northwestern

Eighty students and about 400 signatures encouraged administrators to cut Northwestern’s ties with companies connected to genocide at a town hall meeting Wednesday night.

The meeting was hosted by the NU Darfur Action Coalition, a genocide awareness student group. The group’s current focus is lobbying NU administrators to divest, or remove investments, from companies that have financial relationships with the Sudanese government.

Alyssa Huff, NUDAC coordinator and a Weinberg sophomore, said divestment could help end the genocide in Sudan’s Darfur region. The conflict began in March 2003 and has killed an estimated 400,000 people and left 3.6 million displaced, according to Anne Bartlett, director of the Darfur Center for Human Rights and Development in Chicago and professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

“I’ve been in this awhile, and it’s not getting any better,” said Bartlett, the speaker at Wednesday’s event.

Bartlett said Chinese companies in particular have leverage in Sudan, and divestment targeted at Chinese companies that provide money and arms to the Sudanese government could end the conflict.

Divestment might not create an immediate change but could prevent future violence in Sudan, Bartlett said.

NUDAC is pressuring NU administrators to divest from 29 companies listed by the Sudan Divestment Taskforce, and created a petition to show student support, Huff said.

“If Northwestern is invested in companies that are involved with the Sudanese government, every tuition dollar students spend is implicated, as well,” Huff said.

Huff said the administration divested from South Africa during apartheid and might need encouragement to divest again.

“Our administration aren’t bad guys – we want to work with them,” Huff said. “What (University President Henry Bienen) needs is for us to show that he has support in a decision to divest.”

NU will not lose money by divesting, Huff said, and can be a role model for other universities.

“When a school like Northwestern divests, it sends a message that institutions have a responsibility to stand up and say that we will not stand for genocide,” Huff said.

Laura Peregrim, a Weinberg sophomore said she signed the petition.

“You have to actually do things and not just assume someone else will,” Peregrim said.

NUDAC has planned several events to spread the word about divestment, including a panel of genocide survivors, Huff said. The group also is planning a rally in April with 400,000 Faces, a group working with NUDAC to raise genocide awareness.

Josh Harris, a 400,000 Faces coordinator, said he supported the petition to divest.

“In order for there for be any pressure, there needs to be action,” the Communication sophomore said. “This isn’t a trendy thing – this is a humanitarian tragedy.”

Reach Elise Foley at [email protected]