A meeting Tuesday between the chair of Yale’s Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility and representatives from the Graduate Employees and Students Organization yielded no immediate progress in GESO’s push for divestment from private prison holdings, GESO members said.
Although the ACIR discussed GESO’s report on abuse in prisons, the committee has decided there is not enough evidence to merit divestment, committee chair K. Geert Rouwenhorst said. GESO representatives will have a chance to present their case again during ACIR’s annual open meeting this March.
Yale President Richard Levin said he stands by ACIR’s decision.
“I referred the issue to the ACIR, and that’s the process we use,” Levin said. “Their conclusion was that this was not a case that warranted divestment under our policy.”
But Levin also said that the committee is “always open to new evidence.”
GESO, which has collected hundreds of signatures from Yale faculty, employees and students in support of divestment, alleges that Yale’s holdings in the Corrections Corporation of America ignores the corporation’s repeated violations of human rights.
“Unfortunately, Yale has gone from a tacit approval of investing in private prisons to now an active approval,” GESO organizer Mary Reynolds GRD ’07 said after the meeting with Rouwenhorst.
Reynolds said GESO organizers learned yesterday that ACIR had concluded Yale’s investment in CCA did not constitute a “grave social injury,” which is the standard for divestment set forth in “The Ethical Investor,” the book of adapted investment guidelines used by the ACIR in 1972. The guidelines define social injury as “a violation or frustration of domestic or international legal norms meant to protect against deprivations of health, safety, or basic freedoms.”
Rouwenhorst said GESO’s report did not contain evidence that the current state regulation of CCA is insufficient to prevent abuses.
“The committee … discussed the report in the ACIR, and we sort of take the view that the prison industry is a regulated industry,” Rouwenhorst said.
Sarah Haley GRD ’09, who wrote GESO’s report on the CCA, said she was pleased GESO was being given the opportunity to present its case before the ACIR in March, but she was not satisfied with the ACIR’s decision not to take a stand against investment in private prisons.
“I’m disturbed that they can’t see the blatant human-rights issues,” she said. “I’m disappointed that the standard [for divestment], at least the way it’s interpreted, seems very vague.”
Haley’s report describes instances of what she terms “rape and brutal assault” in CCA-run prisons and charges the CCA with lobbying for harsh sentencing to keep its prisons full.
GESO organizers plan to continue their campaign and expand it to other universities across the country, many of which also have money invested in private prisons, over the next semester, Reynolds said.
“In general, I think this is an issue that people are concerned about,” Haley said. “We’re going to continue this conversation.”
Yale’s investment in CCA through investment manager Farallon Capital Management totals approximately $1.5 million, according to GESO’s report.