Student Victory: Vanderbilt University Divests from Land Grab in Africa

by Project Censored
Published: Last Updated on

Thanks to the student protests at Vanderbilt University, Vanderbilt University has taken steps to withdraw its $26 million investment in EMVest, formerly Emergent Asset Management, an agricultural corporation with farms in five sub-Saharan African countries, including Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe and whose investors included Harvard University. EMVest was accused of “land grabbing,” or taking over agricultural land used by local communities through exploitative practices and using it for large-scale commercial export farming, by the Oakland Institute, a policy think-tank based in Oakland, California, in a June 2011 report publicized in the Guardian (UK).

The protests began after students met with university administrators who would not discuss the matter with student because, “it was not “appropriate” for students to be concerned with endowment issues.”  The student’s organized a sit in and a two-month long “tent city” before the administration gave in.  This was followed by Harvard University’s removal from EMVest.

Vanderbilt University has a $3.4 billion endowment, the 23rd largest of any university in the United States. Its divestment from EMVest marks the second time that the university has taken action in recent history in response to student concerns about investment ethics. The previous case involved HEI Hotels and Resorts, a private equity company that faced unfair labor practice charges, fines, and legal action for violations of labor law; Matthew Wright, the outgoing investment officer at Vanderbilt, made a written statement in January 2012, after students pressed administrators over the issue, that the university had no plans to reinvest in HEI.

“We are glad that Vanderbilt has done the right thing in this case and we hope that Vanderbilt will include students and other community stakeholders in further considerations of the ethical investment of our university’s endowment,” said senior Ben Wibking.

Title: Victory: Vanderbilt University Divests from Land Grab in Africa
Author: Anuradha Mittal
Source: Oakland Institute , 2/13/13

Student Researcher: Jessica Eccles, Sonoma State University
Faculty Advisor: Peter Phillips, Sonoma State University