The Duke University Board of Trustees on Friday approved a resolution that prohibits Duke from making future direct investment in companies engaged in business with the government of Sudan.
The action followed the recommendation of Duke's President's Advisory Committee on Investment Responsibility (ACIR) and Duke President Richard H. Brodhead. The university currently has no direct investments in companies working with the government of Sudan.
The resolution, in protest against that government's human rights violations in the war-torn region of Darfur, covers the $8.2 billion in endowment and assets of Duke University that is invested by the Duke Management Corporation (DUMAC).
This marks the first time that Duke has invoked its investment responsibility policy, which was established by the Board of Trustees in 2004.
The policy has a two-step protocol for handling issues related to socially responsible investment. When an issue is presented by a member of the university community, it is pre-screened by the President's Special Committee on Investment Responsibility. If that group finds the issue merits further investigation, it turns the matter over to the ACIR.
The ACIR, which is chaired by economics professor George Tauchen and includes students, faculty and administrators, met during the fall semester, gathered information from Sudan experts and DUMAC officials and held a public forum on the issue. Following these steps, the ACIR recommended to Brodhead that the resolution be approved by the university.
The Sudan divestment is effective immediately and will remain in effect until the United States government lifts sanctions against Sudan. The sanctions were established in 1997 by the Clinton Administration and added to by an executive order of President George W. Bush in 2006.
The resolution doesn't list any specific businesses in which Duke will have no direct investment, but instead uses a list of "heavily engaged companies" compiled by the international Sudan Divestment Task Force or other authoritative lists.
In a memo to the trustees, Brodhead stated support for the resolution: "The primary goal of the university's investment policy is to maximize returns on the financial resources of the institution. However, we recognize that in exceptional cases, it will be appropriate for trustees to consider moral and ethical issues, brought to their attention by members of the Duke community, when considering investment options.
" -- In this first instance of using our new process, I believe it has worked very well both in terms of consultation and result. I hope you will agree and support the recommendation -- ."
Duke joins a growing list of universities that are divesting or prohibiting future investments in Sudan. Among the universities that have taken similar actions are Yale, Princeton, Harvard and Stanford.