Columbia Becomes The First US University to Divest Private Prison Companies
Student protests stopped Columbia University from taking money from companies that run private prisons, which manages a $9.2 billion endowment, citing the “larger, ongoing discussion of the issue of mass incarceration that concerns citizens from across the ideological spectrum.”
Columbia’s advisory committee said, “An investment whose positive performance is linked to an increase in already high levels of incarceration does not fit with the University’s mission and values.” The student protests garnered interest in the economics that are fast growing in private prisons. Unlike crammed and underfunded state and federally run prisons that benefit when there are fewer inmates, private prisons are planning to put more people into their facilities, the prison industry also has been criticized for targeting immigrants and minorities.
The $9 billion endowed Ivy League school will sell its estimated 220,000 shares in G4S, the world’s largest private security firm, as well its shares in Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest private prison company in the United States.
According to reports, since February 2014 Columbia Prison Divest has campaigned for the University to divest its endowment from G4S and the Corrections Corporations of America, hosting two awareness weeks as well as several others, including one outside of a class taught by University President Lee Bollinger. ACSRI Chair Jeff Gordon said, “the University no longer owns stocks in CCA,” on April 2nd.
The power of student activism caused these changes, Oduyemi, a former editor-in-chief of The Eye, said, “All of the work was done by students and especially students of color on this campus, the narrative should really be one of students and the way that we have managed to take power in a small way that is representative of a larger movement.”
Edited 6/24/15 SCD