Board votes to divest from cluster ammunitions

The University’s Board of Trustees resolved to divest from cluster ammunitions, military equipment and weapons containing uranium this year, in collaboration with Students Against War (SAW).”The point of divesting is to make a political statement that can help end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” SAW member Benjamin Silverman said. “Obviously that’s a tall order, but here every little bit counts.”UVM’s Socially Responsible Investing Work Group (SRIWG) has been working with SAW for over a year to move this process forward.”After the Board of Trustees adopted the divestment policy, a working group was formed for the implementation of the policy,” University Controller Claire Burlingham said, explaining SRIWG’s roots.SRIWG tries to set the bar very high for divestment, as it is costly in terms of administration and opportunity costs, but if there is good reason for the divestment of a company, it is typically very thoroughly considered, according to Burlingham.Students from SAW brought to the Board the issues of both cluster ammunitions and military equipment containing depleted uranium, as they have adverse effects on human health and environment. According to Board of Trustee member John Snow, the cluster ammunitions are very attractive to small children because they resemble toys, causing terrible consequences.The depleted uranium also contains hardening properties used in equipment such as body armor and has been identified as causing major problems to the user and to the environment through which they pass.As a result of both of these issues, SAW requested that the University divest from companies engaged in the manufacture of cluster ammunitions and military equipment and weapons containing depleted uranium.There are around 20 companies for divestment by the University of Vermont — most of which overseas oil and gas companies or military equipment companies — and two major divestment resolutions in place because of SRIWG: divestment from tobacco companies receiving at least 25 percent of their revenues from the manufacture of tobacco, and companies deemed to support the regime in Sudan, which is one of SRIWG’s most well-known accomplishments.The divestment from companies that are connected with the Darfur genocide in Sudan is backed by another one of UVM’s student activism groups, STAND (the student-led division of the Genocide Intervention Network).The  divestment from Sudan began in May of 2006 — years before SAW’s new campaign — and has held strong ever since.”I feel that the University is making a bigger impact in divesting from those companies as a protest than they would in staying and trying to reform them from within,” Silverman said.”As an investor, the University does have a minimal say in how the companies are run, but it would be just one voice in a wilderness of wolves and it wouldn’t have been able to change the company.”