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Gates Foundation: In support of divesting from G4S

The year 1984 may not have seen perpetual global war between three superstates as it did in the novel of the same name, but 1984 was the year that the first prison was transferred to private operation. Since then, the private prison industry has grown massively, fueled by the violent crime epidemic of the ’80s, the “War on Drugs” and public policy changes, like legislatively-mandated long minimum sentences for all sorts of crimes. I support the Stanford campaign calling for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to divest from its $172 million investment in G4S, the world’s largest security company and a large presence in the private prison sector.

Divestment and its discontents

Ultimately, the divestment movement is a cop-out. It is a way for some people to feel self-righteous without having to do anything. Students can celebrate that Stanford divested from coal without having to make any real changes in their lives. The investors in Peabody Energy Corp. may change, but that company mines coal just the same as it always has. If the divestment protestors really believed in their cause, they wouldn’t even be divestment protestors – instead, they would be working harder to reduce their own fossil fuel consumption. If the G4S protestors actually cared about human rights, they would be trying to protect human rights instead of changing the investors in a security company, a goal which does absolutely nothing for human rights.

Students respond to alleged human rights abuses of Gates Foundation company

Following the announcement of Bill and Melinda Gates as Commencement speakers for the upcoming Class of 2014 graduation this year, students began forming a movement requesting the Gates Foundation to divest from company G4S. As of yesterday, 1100 people had signed a petition calling for divestment due to a “litany of human rights abuse and concerns” that the statement claimed G4S was complicit in.

The Rutgers controversy in retrospect: Gates, Bloomberg and Petraeus

“You and your fellow students…are therefore to be congratulated for your involvement in the excellent work of bringing back the Middle Ages,” Yale professor Stephen Carter ‘76 wrote last Thursday. In his acidly penned “Dear Class of 2014: Thanks for Not Disinviting Me,” Carter responded to controversies at Rutgers University and Smith College over the selections of Condoleezza Rice and Christine Lagarde as their commencement speakers. (Ditto for Haverford College and Robert Birgenau.) A former managing editor of The Stanford Daily, one imagines that Carter would be amused to see that this piece has relevance to Stanford as well.