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A Protracted Divestment from Sudan

After many student protests, MIT finally announced its intention to divest from Sudan in May 2007. The decision came from the MIT Corporation’s Executive Committee, which heard recommendations from an advisory committe in April.

Kirk D. Kolenbrander, secretary of the Corporation, issued a statement saying that MIT would be “reviewing the securities portfolios over which it may exercise direct investment discretion and will divest as appropriate,” and characterized the acts in Sudan as “genocide.”

Despite those strong words, it has been difficult to see further progress in divestment. Kolenbrander, citing institutional policy, has declined to provide any information as to how much money was invested in Sudan and in what companies. Kolenbrander also declined to speculate on how long divestment could take.

It’s also unclear if the divestment principles the MIT Corporation’s Executive Committee chose align with those recommended by the ACSR.

Kayvan Zainabadi G, who was an active leader in the divestment campaign, characterized MIT’s decision to divest as encouraging. He said he was “cautiously optimistic” and wanted to see how the divestment was implemented.

In September, Kolenbrander announced that MIT was not invested in the 20 “highest offenders” as determined by the national Sudan Divestment Task Force. Kolenbrander would not say whether MIT was ever invested in any of the offending companies but did say that “whatever changes were necessary … our investment managers moved promptly to make that happen … there’s no further work to be done there, as I understand it.”