Feb

3

Letter Presented to Prezbo Calling for Divestment from Private Prisons

Written by

Students reading letter in the office of President Bollinger
Students reading letter in the office of President Bollinger

Students reading letter in the office of President Bollinger

A group of  students entered the office of the president in Low Library this morning and read a letter to the President’s Deputy Chief of Staff demanding an end to Columbia University’s roughly $8 million dollar investment in the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and other companies involved in the private prison industry.   The group is also circulating the letter which can be found here, and can be reached at [email protected].

The students, in their press release, say they began this campaign Wishing to hold their university accountable to its commitment against discrimination, they visited the President’s office hoping to discuss how these kinds of investments were affecting their own communities, which are communities of color, LGBTQ, international and working class communities, disproportionately represented in prisons.”

In calling for action they demanded that Columbia “divest all shares from CCA and G4S, and provide a public statement confirming its divestment from these corporations,” “Columbia’s fund managers to reach out to each of the following companies [listed in press release] in which the university is invested insisting that they divest from CCA and the GEO Group” and asked for greater transparency in investments, noting that “We are now only able to access information on 10% of Columbia’s investments, but we believe that as members of the Columbia community we should be made aware of the remaining 90%.”

They have requested that the President Bollinger respond by Friday, Feb 7th.  Below is the full text of their press release:

UPDATE: The group has provided a video of their presentation of the letter to the president’s office.

Contact Information:

[email protected]

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

 

Letter Delivered to President Lee Bollinger and Read in his Office

 

Students deliver a letter to President Lee Bollinger expressing concerns regarding their university’s major investments in leading private prison companies in the United States and abroad, and calling for divestment.

 

Columbia and Barnard students from a diverse array of backgrounds came together due to their grave concerns regarding the investment practices of Columbia University in relation to the private prison industry. After becoming aware that as of June 2013, in the 10% of its budget that is made public, Columbia owned 230,432 shares, worth a market value of roughly $8 million, in Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest private prison company in the United States, and was also invested in G4S, a British multinational security services company that provides security systems for detention and interrogation facilities, checkpoints and high-security prisons globally, these students felt deeply troubled by their university profiting from a growing prison system. Wishing to hold their university accountable to its commitment against discrimination, they visited the President’s office hoping to discuss how these kinds of investments were affecting their own communities, which are communities of color, LGBTQ, international and working class communities, disproportionately represented in prisons. As President Bollinger was not in his office, the students trusted Deputy Chief of Staff Carrie Walker with a message to be delivered to President Bollinger upon his return.

 

Their call to action included the following:

 

1. We want Columbia to immediately divest all shares from CCA and G4S, and provide a public statement confirming its divestment from these corporations. We want Columbia to adopt a permanent negative screen for CCA, G4S, and the GEO Group (the second largest private prison company in the U.S.) to confirm that Columbia will not invest in these companies in the future.

  

2. We want Columbia’s fund managers to reach out to each of the following companies in which the university is invested insisting that they divest from CCA and the GEO Group. We want proof of this being completed. These 36 companies each own over one million shares of and collectively over two thirds of CCA and the GEO Group :  

American Century Companies Inc., Ameriprise Financial Inc., Balestra Capital LTD., Bank of America Corp., Bank Of New York Mellon Corp., Barclays Global Investors, Blackrock Fund Advisors, Carlson Capital LP, Cramer Rosenthal McGlynn LLC, Dimensional Fund Advisors LP, Eagle Asset Management Inc., Epoch Investment Partners Inc., FMR LLC, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Hamlin Capital Management, LLC, ING Investment Management LLC & Co., Invesco LTD., Jennison Associates LLC, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Keeley Asset Management Corp., Lazard Management LLC, London Co. Of Virginia, Makaira Partners LLC, Managed Account Advisors LLC, Morgan Stanley, Neuberger Berman Group LLC, New South Capital Management INC, Northern Trust Corp, Principal Financial Group Inc, Renaissance Technologies LLC, River Road Asset Management LLC, Scopia Capital Management LLC, State Street Corp, Suntrust Banks INC, Vanguard Group INC, Wells Fargo & Company

  

3. We want more transparency regarding Columbia’s investments. We are now only able to access information on 10% of Columbia’s investments, but we believe that as members of the Columbia community we should be made aware of the remaining 90%.”

 

The students have asked the President to respond to the letter by Friday, Feb 7th.

 

 

Tags: , , , , ,

27 Comments

  1. CC14

    Good for them! This is an important cause.

  2. Yeahhh  

    Honestly let's just free all criminals. They've done nothing wrong. Not a single one of them.

    • Anonymous

      I can't tell if you're trolling or if you seriously think there's nothing wrong with the prison system.

    • Anonymous  

      Some people probably ought to be removed from society for some period of time. Few people would disagree with that idea. I'm sort of one of them, but I'm willing to concede that the the concept of prison is arguably rational when used for individuals like first degree murderers etc.

      The problem with private prisons though is that they create an economic incentive that runs directly against a societal good (keep young people out of prison as much as we can).

      1) Private prisons will lobby with their profits to enforce harsher laws on recreational drug users.

      2) They will give judges kickbacks to send kids who might otherwise receive a community service sentence to spend time in prison.

      3) By creating cheaper prison space than their public counterparts, they will encourage the government to lock up more people.

      4) Finally, private prisons thrive off of the business of locking people up - therefore they have no incentive to attempt to rehabilitate their inmates. If anything, they have an incentive to make the prison experience of their inmates much worse, therefore traumatizing those that they are keeping captive, and making them more likely to face recidivism in the future (returning customers are good for business).

      There are some industries that ought to be privatized - industries that when privatized bring about the greatest societal good. There are many others that ought to nationalized - industries that when left to market forces will result in a societal evil. Prisons are one of those latter industries.

  3. Yeahhh

    You honestly don’t know what you’re talking about

  4. seriously  

    disgusting that Columbia would invest in something like this.

  5. silly activists  

    Thinking PrezBo gives a fuck about your opinion.

  6. curious  

    Where can we find information re: Columbia's investments?

    • Fainan Lakha  (Bwog Staff)  

      As far as I'm aware there's a list of 10% of columbia's investments that's publicly available, as necessitated by law. I'm sure if you email the people involved in this or Barnard Columbia Divest you can get your hands on that list.

  7. are they joking?  

    they think that a letter delivered on a monday will get a response by a the same friday? that's not good-faith negotiating.

  8. Anonymous  

    Fuck this divestment bullshit. Investments are made for a reason: to make money. Plus, what's wrong with investing in a prison?

    Looking at the people reading, they all probably have relatives in prison or something. If you're convicted of something you go to jail... divesting in prisons won't change that. I say invest more and get the undesirables off the street.

  9. talker

    The students offer no support for their accusations. Just a demand letter? c'mon, you gotta at least make your case.

    • Anonymous  

      if you read their letter they do make a case. what "accusations"? they aren't accusing the university of something. they are asking the university to stop investing in private prisons, which the university itself acknowledges it does.

  10. Anonymous

    How did we divest from fossil fuel companies before private prisons?

  11. Bigots. There is no evidence that the LGBTQ community is disproportionally represented in prisons!!! Take that bigoted statement out!

  12. Anonymous

    wasn't aware that this was happening on campus, but i'm really proud of my fellow students for taking a stand on this.

  13. Anonymous

    They won't be able to get 100%, even Dodd-Frank couldn't make the hedge funds Columbia parks its money with tell what they invest in. But Columbia can tell what they know, which is probably most of it.

    Also, any big financial institution is going to own a little CCA (or hold it on behalf of clients) because it's on the S&p 400,, so pressuring S&P to take CCA off is probably where the most could be done.

  14. Squid  

    This is too fucking good I want this to happen.

  15. Uh Oh  

    Did he ever respond?

© 2006-2015 Blue and White Publishing Inc.