Reviving memories of the fierce Vietnam War protests at universities in the 1960’s, students at 20 colleges across the United States are once again organizing against Dow, this time united in their demand that Dow accept its moral and legal responsibilities in Bhopal. They’ve banded together to form Students for Bhopal, a national network that is planning campaigns against Dow until it accepts all the demands of the Bhopal survivors. “Students here are like students elsewhere,” said Janine Jacques, one of the student campaigners at Brown University. “When we heard about what was happening in Bhopal, we were outraged. We decided that we had to act.”
The student protests of 1967-8 afflict Dow’s reputation even now. Today’s students are also busy driving Dow’s expensively crafted image as an environmental steward and warm-hearted corporate citizen to the wall. Such as students at Brown, who aren’t buying it; they dressed up as the “Dow Grim Reaper” this past Halloween and set out to “kill” their fellow students on the college green. “We feel that Halloween is the perfect time to highlight the unholy alliance that Dow and Death seem to have made,” declared Mika Nagasaki, a sophomore at Brown. “Dow maximizes its profits by contributing to the deaths of thousands of people throughout the world, and Death is only too happy to collect these victims before their time. Dow’s legacy of contamination and death must come to an end; by refusing to take action in Bhopal, Dow is condemning thousands more to an untimely end.”
Students at other colleges were also making the connection between Dow and Death this past Halloween. Students at the University of Michigan, the University of Maryland–College Park, the University of California–Berkeley, and Wheaton also participated in the Halloween Day of Action. Over 30 colleges are expected to participate in the December 3rd Global Day of Action Against Corporate Crime.
Students for Bhopal has been organizing a series of campaigns against Dow Chemical, many of which parallel the student campaigns that plagued Dow during the Vietnam War. During the late ’60s and early ’70s, thousands of students forced Dow off of their college campuses-sometimes violently-because of its production of Agent Orange and Napalm for the US military. Dow’s steadfast refusal to take any responsibility for Bhopal is leading many students to question whether the company’s behavior has ever changed. Many are deciding that they don’t want their Universities associated with Dow, financially or otherwise.
“Is it possible to ethically invest in a corporation that refuses to remediate the impacts of its own pollution, to the detriment of thousands of lives? I don’t think so,” said Clayton Perry, one of the Bhopal organizers at Occidental College in California. “Nor is it really fair that Dow donates millions of dollars every year to colleges and universities across the country, while refusing to spend a cent in Bhopal. We don’t want our colleges accepting Dow’s blood money.”
“Many students have never heard of Bhopal,” said Ryan Bodanyi, the Student Coordinator for ICJB. “But once they do they become outraged, and they want to become involved. It’s amazing how quickly the student campaign is spreading; if Dow continues to dawdle and delay I think that they’ll have a huge fight on their hands before too long.”
To find out more about Students for Bhopal, visit www.studentsforbhopal.org