Statement on Cornell's response to the crisis in Darfur
March 16, 2007
Last fall, Cornell University decided to bar investment of its endowment assets in obligations of the Sudanese government and in oil companies currently operating in the Sudan. As a university, our principal task is to ensure excellence in teaching, research, scholarship, and outreach. But the magnitude of the crisis in Darfur represents a moral challenge that cannot be ignored.
Cornell's decision to divest followed a report by the University's investment office illustrating how revenues generated by the Sudanese oil industry have been used to finance genocide in Darfur. Of course, divestment is not by itself a remedy, but it is one means by which to register our opposition to the policies and actions of the Sudanese government and represents a modest contribution to a much larger effort by many institutions and individuals to influence the course of events in Sudan.
Unfortunately, the crisis in Darfur and in the region has not abated. As an academic institution, there are limits on what Cornell can do in response, particularly while conflict continues on the ground in Sudan. At the time Cornell's decision to divest was announced, we indicated that we would work with faculty, students, and staff to identify ways in which the university might offer some positive assistance to the people of Darfur.
Over the past two years, faculty and students here have held a series of events related to the genocide in Darfur. These events have included academic conferences, a teach-in on Sudan, a service-learning course on humanitarianism, on campus screening of documentaries on Darfur, presentations by outside speakers, and a 600 mile bike Ride Against Genocide. Indeed, these activities helped lead to the decision to divest. Later this month, a student group will conduct a public awareness week with public exhibits, outside speakers, and presentation of a documentary on Darfur.
Many other suggestions have been put forward. Among other things, we have decided to support a faculty-organized strategy workshop on Preparing for Peace in Sudan, to be held on the Ithaca Campus. The workshop will bring together representatives of Sudanese civil society, academic experts, and non-governmental organization service providers active in Sudan to analyze some of the critical problems and predictable needs Sudan will confront in the next few years, and to identify policies, institutions, technologies, and research needed to advance a lasting peace and support sustainable development. We anticipate that the workshop will produce recommendations for further projects and research that we can support.
We have also decided to join the Scholars at Risk Network, and to seek to host writers and scholars from the region whose work places them at risk at home. We hope to do this in partnership with the Ithaca City of Asylum program. In addition, we will continue to support public awareness efforts to educate students and community members about events in Darfur, both on campus and in local secondary schools. We will also continue to speak with public officials, interested alumni and others to encourage meaningful engagement and diplomacy on Darfur, and we will continue to support academic research on conflict and post-conflict issues. Finally, we are continuing to look for ways to assist civil society organizations in Sudan in their own efforts to promote peace and secure a better future for all of the people of Sudan.
Our efforts in connection with Darfur represent a component of a larger effort to support and strengthen Cornell's existing research, programs, and activities pertaining to Africa. As announced in the state of the university address last fall, we would like Cornell to be more strategic in our approaches to this important part of the world. Under Provost Martin's leadership, several vice provosts have been working with a range of faculty to gather information regarding Cornell's many and varied Africa-related endeavors, and to identify ways to leverage and support such efforts. They will draft a white paper on Cornell's efforts in Africa and offer recommendations for the future by the end of the academic year. In the meantime, we welcome your further suggestions and input.
David J. Skorton
Vice Provost for International Relations