Professor asks Student Association to support pledge of divestment from companies that serve private prisons

SAmeeting-11Via The Daily Orange | By Catherine Leffert

The founder of a campus movement on Monday asked members of Syracuse University’s Student Association to support a resolution that pushes SU officials to pledge not to buy stocks in companies that provide services to private prisons.

Janice Dowell, an SU philosophy professor, presented information at SA’s meeting about “Divest Syracuse,” a part of a broader national movement that aims to keep colleges from investing in companies that provide goods or services to private prisons.

“As members of the Syracuse community, we have the ability to fight back,” said Dowell, the movement’s founder.

Dowell has asked SU to publicly pledge not to buy stocks from any companies that provide goods and services to private prisons.

For example, if PepsiCo Inc. provides products in vending machines at private prisons, Dowell said SU should no longer invest in PepsiCo, if taking the pledge. “Divest Syracuse,” though, would not mean a boycott of PepsiCo products on campus, Dowell added.

Private prison divestment movements have been successful at other colleges such as Georgetown University, Columbia University and the University of California system.

Dowell said this type of divestment should be an SA initiative because students are concerned about private prisons. Those facilities are worse than public prisons, Dowell said. Private prison companies lobby for harsher incarceration laws, she added.

This past February, “Divest Syracuse” members received an email from SU Treasurer David Smith, Dowell said. In his email, Smith said SU does not invest any of its endowment in companies that directly service private prisons, Dowell said. Dowell said she wants a pledge from the university to not buy any stocks in private prison companies in the future, she said.

In her presentation, Dowell said about 2 million people are incarcerated in the United States, five times the global incarceration average. Dowell said a majority of the people incarcerated in the U.S. are black or brown.

“What we really need is criminal justice reform,” Dowell said. “But the existence of these companies makes reform really difficult.”

The SA Assembly decided not to vote on Monday to support a resolution urging SU officials to make the divestment pledge. Instead, the organization will bring the issue to the attention of the student body at a public forum, which will be held near the end of the semester, said SA Parliamentarian Obi Afriyie.

Other business

The SA Assembly also passed a motion to allocate $200 to fund a Snapchat filter for the “Bump the Mumps” event on Tuesday.

“Bump the Mumps” is a health fair taking place on the Quad Tuesday that aims to encourage students to take a pledge in hopes of stopping the spread of mumps on campus.

There will be hot chocolate, T-shirts and stickers for students who sign the “Bump the Mumps” pledge. Event merchandise will have a “Stranger Things” theme. “Stranger Things” is a popular Netflix science fiction series.

Vice President Angie Pati and Julia Haber, a representative from Vision for Entrepreneurship and the Entrepreneurship Club, have been working with SU Health Services to help sponsor the event. Pati said Health Services has been receptive of ideas and concerns about the mumps.

“Julia and myself worked with communications at Health Services to create a fun event that’s really relatable, and it also conveys a lot of important information,” Pati said. “We want people to get their merch, get their hot chocolate, learn about mumps and mumps prevention and go on with their day.”

The event will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Pati said there will be 200 “Stranger Things” themed T-shirts available for students who sign the “Bump the Mumps” pledge.

The vice president also said she and Haber recommended Health Services put the number of confirmed and probable mumps cases on its website. Now, Pati said, those statistics are constantly available for students.

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