Divestment 2008

On February 28, a representative from Rutgers Against the War posted an entry on the group's blog calling for Rutgers to divest from eleven companies that the group feels are "contributing to human rights violations (and often being outright murderous)." The complete list of companies from which RAW wishes to divest include Boeing, Caterpillar, DYNCORP International, FMC Tech, Forster Wheeler, General Electric, Halliburton, Honeywell International, L-3 Communications, Northrop Grumman, Exxon Mobil, and Raytheon.

This week, students affiliated with the divestment effort began circulating a petition in classes in effort of gaining support for their cause. However, a number of us were seriously confused by the methods these students employed in order to call attention to this important issue. One editor recalled being told that not only has Rutgers invested billions of dollars in Halliburton, L-3 Communications, and Honeywell International — three contracting companies with a history of shady doings in Iraq — as well as other equally dubious companies, but that records of these endowments were so difficult for them to obtain that they basically had to jump through hoops in order to get it. However, when prompted by students for more information, the representatives were unable to supply specifics, which has some of our editors question the facts behind their argument.

While none of us believe Rutgers should have money invested in companies like Halliburton and L-3 Communications, companies that have directly profited off of misery and bloodshed in the Iraq War, we're not quite sure whether or not our investment in a company like General Electric should be viewed in a similar light. For starters, General Electric is a huge company with many subsidiaries, and cannot rightly be classified strictly as a military contracting firm. We would also like to know more about how much freedom Rutgers had in directing how their investment would be put to use at each company. This question is also important in relation to Caterpillar, which is first and foremost a manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, though RAW has made statements to the effect that they played a role in the wrongful demolition of homes and other buildings in Iraq and Palestine.

The bottom line is that RAW's divestment campaign leaves open more questions than it answers, most notably the question of how they expect to achieve their goal of advocating for more affordable university education while simultaneously calling for the divestment of billions of dollars that have been generating a good amount of the University's revenue. We believe that a good deal of the confusion would be cleared up if RAW were to put forth a financially viable alternative to investing in companies such as these, which have a history of turning over consistent profits. Divestment would be a real tough sell without an alternate means of making up the lost funds, which we, quite simply, cannot afford to lose. 


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