Earlier this month, George Washington University created a scholarship that will grant a $200,000 4-year scholarship for a student from Sudan, reports Inside Higher Ed. On first glance, it appears merely a generous act though in reality it is a concession to its campus group Students Taking Action Now: Darfur which had asked the university (as they have done at their nearly 150 chapters on campuses nationwide) to divest completely from companies that invest in Sudan.
Now I don’t want to take away from the good that will come from the scholarship but aren’t we talking about apples and oranges here? Investing in one student per year (and the scholarship is not new, it has traditionally been reserved for D.C. students) is quite different than divestment. Students at GW and across the nation have their suspicions as well. Chad Hazlett, the leader for divestment in Sudan at Harvard, had this to say:
“This scholarship is situated as if it’s a tradeoff, and alternative, to divestment.” “It isn’t. I think the scholarship is a great idea. But it doesn’t substitute for putting pressure on the government of Sudan, nor does it satisfy the moral obligation of those who made the decision to be doing all they can to end genocide.”
School divestment is not a pipe dream for students involved with STAND. Over the past year, 3 schools have divested completely and more than 20 schools have begun “pulling the plug on deals that sent aid and comfort to Khartoum,” as we reported in Mother Jones in September. And history shows us just how effective wide-scale divestment can be. Divestment from South Africa by 180 universities played a key role in devastating the South African economy in the late 1980s, which ultimately brought apartheid to an end.