March 7, 2017

Letter to the Editor: On conflict-free university contracts

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To the Editor:

For years, “conflict minerals” — defined as mined gold, tin, tantalum and tungsten that provide income to armed groups operating in the Democratic Republic of the Congo — have fueled one of the deadliest conflicts since World War II. That’s why numerous universities, countries and civil society organizations have boycotted companies whose production lines source minerals from these deadly and illegal extractive operations.

But the international campaign to eradicate conflict minerals and their attendant violence in the eastern Congo is under siege. President Trump’s administration is planning to cancel Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which prevents American companies from purchasing conflict minerals. According to over 100 Congo-based human rights organization, this federal reversal could reignite militia networks that engage in human trafficking, forced child labor and other human rights abuses.

When the state lends itself to forces of war, institutions have a responsibility to take decisive action to promote peace and uphold the public good. That’s why students are readying “Prescribing Conflict-Free University Contracts,” a Student Assembly resolution urging Cornell to join hundreds of other institutions in making verifiably conflict-free purchasing decisions. In the coming weeks, an accessory petition will be launched to allow the student body to voice its support for this critical measure.

Cornell has a unique opportunity to assert progressive values in the face of reactionary federal policies. Let’s demand it not be squandered.


Helen Shanahan ‘18

On behalf of Amnesty International at Cornell University

Christopher Hanna ‘18

On behalf of Amnesty International at Cornell University

Matthew Indimine ‘18

executive vice president of the Student Assembly

Paul Russell ‘19

co-chair of the Student Assembly Policy Research and Planning Committee