On March 4, as thousands of students and faculty across California took to the streets to protest budget cuts and tuition increases across the state’s university system, Ricardo Dominguez, an associate professor of visual arts at the San Diego campus, engineered a demonstration of a different kind.
Student activists have spent decades making a moral case for colleges to divest from controversial companies, and the failures of that line of argument have far outnumbered successes. Hoping to turn the tide, United Students Against Sweatshops will begin a new sort of campaign today, making the case that some of the nation’s elite universities actually lose money by investing with a powerful hotel management company charged with unfair labor practices.
One of the more controversial campus speeches of the last academic year was discussed not so much for its content as for its repeated interruption. On Monday, the debates started again -- with the news that University of California at Irvine was moving to suspend the Muslim Student Union on the campus for a year as punishment for organizing heckling during a speech by Israel's ambassador to the United States.
Maybe punishing every evil company is less practical than supporting corporations that seek to do good. Rather than divest from tobacco companies or those that engage in ethically dubious business in Sudan, Dickinson and Middlebury colleges are trying to steer investment dollars toward companies and managed funds with strong environmental and social records.