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Harvard Disinvestment Initiative Stirs Debate

Harvard announced on April 4th that it will sell its stake in PetroChina in response to pressure from students and faculty members who had protested association with the Beijing-based oil company for its ties to Sudan, where government-backed militiamen have killed tens of thousands of black Muslim villagers in the Darfur region.

The Corporation Committee on Shareholder Responsibility (CCSR), the only group that has the power to veto investments on ethical grounds expressed concerns about setting a precedent for future investment decisions, noting that “typically, in such cases, the act of divestment is not taken with the expectation that it will induce a company to cease its objectionable operations.” The CCSR added that “rather, to paraphrase (former Harvard University) President Bok, the University simply does not consider it proper to make investments in the enterprise in question.”

Similar disinvestment initiatives in company’s accused of ethical violations have recently surfaced on college campuses nationwide. For example, student groups have mobilized against investment in companies like Lockheed Martin and Raytheon for their perceived support of the Israeli occupation.

The Harbus asked HBS students the following question:

Do you perceive disinvestment as a means for Harvard to exert political influence where it shouldn’t or is it just responsible investing?

A. Exert political influence where it shouldn’t
B. It’s just responsible investing

Results:

A. 29.3%
B. 70.7%

Number of responses: 164

Have an opinion on this matter? Send your letter to the editor – editor@harbus.org

April 11, 2005
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