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Why Sac State seems determined to be a world divestment judge and juror in silence

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When Sacramento State President Luke Wood took the stage at last weekend’s commencement to send off his first class as students start their next chapter, he gave them a message about leadership.

“The world is not led by the passive; it’s led by those who take on the mantle of leadership, and when there isn’t a mantle, they build their own mantle because they refuse to settle,” Wood said to the crowd of thousands of graduates in Golden 1 Center on May 20.

These are pretty rich words coming from the president who so far isn’t leading in any public or transparent way to implement his new, socially responsible investment policy.

Weeks ago, in an attempt to get pro-Palestine protesters to stop a 10-day encampment, Sacramento State announced a policy that will ban “direct investments in corporations and funds that profit from genocide, ethnic cleansing, and activities that violate fundamental human rights.” But what do these words really mean? Wood and his leadership team so far aren’t saying.

Opinion

After weeks of reporting on the protest and the outcome, including a visit to the temporary encampment, it’s evident to me that this policy relies on vague language. If ever implemented, it would make the university an international judge and jury when deciding which companies it does business with.

It isn’t showing leadership for Wood to be sidestepping the implications of what he has gotten the university into. His investment policy’s three categories of inhumanity are no joke. The university now must adhere to its own policy and investigate companies that invest in those that commit these outrageous acts.

How will Sac State determine divestments?

The university says it has no direct investments that violate this policy and will investigate whether “indirect” investments like mutual funds include companies that do. How did they make this initial determination?

Here are the questions I have asked Sacramento State that the university has yet to answer about genocide, ethnic cleansing and violations of fundamental human rights:

Genocide: What definition of genocide is the university planning to apply? Specifically, what nations and groups are committing genocide now in the eyes of the university? Are either Israel or Hamas guilty of genocide?

Ethnic cleansing: What is the university’s definition of ethnic cleansing? How does the university plan to identify who is committing ethnic cleansing? Are any nations or groups now committing ethnic cleansing according to the university?

Violations of fundamental human rights: Please specify each and every human right that the university considers fundamental. How does the university plan to determine whether any nation or group is violating these fundamental human rights? Are any nations or groups now violating these rights according to the university?

While providing no answers, Sacramento State did inform me that it will be “releasing guidance in the coming weeks about the new policy.”

Out of the three categories, identifying the world’s fundamental human rights feels like the biggest question mark of all. You could write a list as long as the American River citing violations of fundamental human rights that the U.S. commits on a daily basis. Will the university divest from American companies that don’t support a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body? Will they divest in countries and organizations that indirectly invest in CoreCivic, a for-profit prison company with a record of abusing Black and brown inmates?

Where are the CSU trustees on this?

One university alone cannot fix the problems of the world, particularly one that is part of a 23-university system. Sacramento State’s freelancing in investment policing comes off as arrogant and could prove to be an insurmountable task.

Where is the California State University Board of Trustees in all this? Don’t they set policy? Shouldn’t they be the ones to decide where system funds can be invested?

President Wood has picked a dangerous leadership test by jumping into the nation’s divestment debate. The toughest of subjects deserves the coolest of heads.

Meanwhile, we await the university’s “guidelines.”

If Wood and the university thought that ending the unrest would allow the university to fly under the radar, they miscalculated. Their “leadership” on divestment places them squarely in the hot seat. The longer the silence continues, the more this looks like a smoke and mirrors trick to get the student body back in order before finals.

Talk about leadership.

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