Anti-war group delivers petition to administration

Students gathered on the steps of Waterman Friday afternoon to demand that the University start withdrawing its investments in defense companies. The event, organized largely by Students Against War (SAW) along with other on-campus student groups, drew a crowd of about 150 students.According to junior Benjamin Silverman, an organizer for SAW, the University invested large amounts of money in six “war-profiteering” companies – an investment that he feels “goes against the University’s Common Ground [policy] and basic philosophy.””What we are trying to do is to match up the University’s investments with their mission statement,” Silverman said. “We want to make our University reflect our values.”The companies targeted in SAW’s petition – which had over 1500 signatories as of Wednesday – included General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, Halliburton, DynCorp, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin. The University has holdings in those companies ranging from $300,000 to $620,000, including several undisclosed amounts, event organizers said. As the crowd entered Waterman, organizers presented their three-page divestment proposal to Richard Cate, UVM’s vice president for finance and administration. As Cate spoke, the crowd quieted almost immediately, straining to hear his brief remarks.Cate stressed the importance of making “ethical investments,” while at the same time making investments that were “financially sound.”Organizers now anticipate making a presentation to the Board of Trustees’ Committee on Socially Responsible Investing before a final audience with the entire Board, which is responsible for the University’s endowment.The rally is part of SAW’s recent divestment campaign, which started last April during a similar rally in the President’s Wing of Waterman. During the somewhat contentious April sit-in, the group was granted a meeting with University President Daniel Fogel, which in turn led to the group’s coordination with John Snow, chairperson of the Board’s Committee on Socially Responsible Investing. According to Silverman, Snow remained somewhat hesitant about withdrawing money from all six companies, wanting to focus more on companies that manufactured clusterbombs. Snow’s reasoning was that such a move would be an easier case to make to the Board of Trustees, as clusterbombs are outlawed under the confines of the Geneva Conventions, Silverman said.The two representatives of UVM’s state congressional district, David Zuckerman and Chris Pearson, also attended Friday’s rally, along with gubernatorial candidate Anthony Pollina. Pollina’s remarks focused on the need to reinvest the funds in question into local Vermont-run companies. “We are your voice,” Pearson said. “The louder [the students] are, the louder we can be in Montpelier.”Zuckerman spoke about the similar divestment campaigns of the 1980s, specifically noting the student-led effort to divest from companies supporting the Apartheid government in South Africa.The student groups involved in the rally hope to maintain pressure by holding more demonstrations, including a planned ‘die-in’ at the Davis Center on Nov. 13, Silverman said. “The rally exceeded all expectations,” Silverman said. “The number of people who attended shows just how popular these views are in the campus community.”