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April 26, 2011

SRIC delivery goes on without Zimmer’s audience

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Students behind last week’s widely-supported referendum calling for a Socially Responsible Investment Committee (SRIC) went knocking at President Zimmer’s door Friday to deliver the news. But he didn’t answer.

In Zimmer’s absence, the group filed into the lobby outside his office, where organizer and fourth-year Craig Johnson read their statement to his secretary.

“We are aware of the long-standing history regarding the controversies surrounding the University’s investment practices,” Johnson read from the statement. “Past campaigns have called for specific divestments and have been political in nature. This delegation is different.”

The organizers said their intent was to present Zimmer with the prepared statement on why the administration should heed the non-binding referendum, which passed during last week’s SG elections with 80 percent of the vote. The group asked for a response to newly-elected Undergraduate Liaison to the Board of Trustees and third-year Nakul Singh by May 6.

“A significant amount of our money is going to the University,” demonstrator and first-year Alyssa Skar said. “We should be knowing where our money is going, particularly where they’re investing it, and I think it’s good to put it toward socially forward projects.”

Fourth-year Rafael Menis, however, had stronger words for the University’s current investments, alleging that a few of them may even be criminal.

“Right now, the University is invested in several companies that are engaged in, to put it simply, socially irresponsible actions, and, to put it less simply, quite possibly illegal actions, as determined by the EPA and the FDA,” Menis said, citing the University’s investment in Arch Coal, whose mountaintop mining practices in West Virginia have come under the scrutiny of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Despite the high level of support, the reported voter turnout was just under half the student body, retaining previous years’ levels of election participation.

Demonstrators argued that students should have a stronger say in where their tuition fees are going.

“We’re hoping to get Zimmer to acknowledge the fact that the University student body voted in recent elections by an overwhelming majority for the creation of a Socially Responsible Investment Committee,” Menis said. “The student body wants this, it’s a legitimate demand, and the administration should consider it.”

Although the group was unable to gain an audience with Zimmer, Johnson still counts the demonstration as a victory and is hopeful about the future.

“The next step is to continue to gain student support and to inform students about what the functions of this committee would be and exactly why it is necessary,” Johnson said. “I’ve been involved in this campaign for two years. This is beautiful.”

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