Investing in Divestment

Audrey Melick

At 94 Broad Street, a group of sophomore students is going through anything but the sophomore slump, and this Tuesday, they were joined by Brandeis junior Daniel Millenson, co-founder of the Sudan Divestment Task Force.

LOFT (Leadership Opportunities For Tomorrow) II, based on the first-year equivalent, LOFT, is a residential community designed specifically for sophomores who wish to take up, or have already assumed, leadership roles at Colgate. Almost all of the participants lived and worked together last year in LOFT, but for some, this is their first year in the program.

“I’ve learned that just about anybody can be a leader,” sophomore James Wright said. This is his first year in LOFT, and he says he has already benefited from the program.

“Leadership comes in different shapes,” added fellow first-time LOFTer sophomore Naomi Rayfield. “There can be silent and subtle leaders.”

Of course, students don’t become leaders simply by living together. LOFT II students must take a psychology course, “How to Change the World in One Semester,” taught by Professor of Psychology Carrie Keating, and develop leadership proposals to be presented by the end of the semester.

Other requirements include weekly interviews with various leaders conducted by the students.The subjects chosen for these interviews demonstrate qualities of leadership that LOFT II promotes.This week’s interviewee was Millenson, who, according to LOFT II’s standards, possesses exceptional leadership values.

Millenson wanted to do something about the Darfur genocide that has seen over 400,000 innocent Sudanese deaths.In 2005, as a mere first-year, he developed and co-founded a network of divestment models to limit the funds being poured into the Sudanese government. Millenson now serves as the executive director of this network, called the Sudan Divestment Task Force.His economic model has grown into a political strategy that has been embraced by 13 of the 20 states that have adopted divestment policies. Concern for Darfur has been picking up speed in the educational spectrum as well: 55 universities have adopted some form of divestment strategy and 47 have initiated campaigns to do so.

Divestment calls for participants to discontinue their business relationships with companies that are either directly or indirectly supplying aid to the government of Sudan, and are therefore helping to perpetuate genocide.After an institution divests, demand for the boycotted companies’ stocks fall, and share prices decline.

Sensitive to declining profits, and in an effort to protect the value of their shareholders’ investments, these companies are financially motivated to appeal to Sudan to cease backing those inflicting genocide in Darfur.If the government does not sufficiently respond, then the companies may cease doing business with the Sudanese, thereby withdrawing funds that would have otherwise been used to kill thousands of innocent citizens.

Millenson and his co-workers make it clear that their divestment strategies target the Sudanese government as the receiver of any detrimental impact and, in contrast, protects not only the citizens of Darfur, but the financial well-being of divestors, as well.

So what can LOFT II hope to gain from Daniel Millenson?

“He’s young,” Wright said, “so he’s the exact opposite of what you would think such an influential leader would be like. But from that, we can learn what it takes to start something as college students, and to stay interested enough to see it through.”

“It’s amazing that he was able to stand up for, and stay dedicated to, a cause that so many people just brush aside,” Rayfield said.