Berkeley student assembly calls on University of California to divest, refuse donations from Dow Chemical – cites Bhopal contamination

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, March 11th, 2005
CONTACT: Ryan Bodanyi, Students for Bhopal, (401) 829-6192
Today, the Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC) released a resolution that calls on the University of California to divest from Dow Chemical, the world’s largest chemicals manufacturer, and refuse all donations from the company. The resolution, sponsored by a coalition of South Asian and environmental student groups, cites Dow’s refusal to resolve the civil and criminal liabilities of its subsidiary, Union Carbide, in Bhopal—the “Hiroshima of the chemical industry”.

Survivor’s leader Rashida Bee and Satinath Sarangi of the ICJB speak to UC students at Berkeley in April 2004
On December 3rd, 1984, thousands of people in Bhopal, India, were gassed to death after a catastrophic chemical leak at a Union Carbide pesticide plant. More than 150,000 people were left severely disabled—of whom 20,000 have since died of their injuries—in a disaster now widely acknowledged as the world’s worst-ever industrial disaster. None of the six safety systems at the plant were functional, and Union Carbide’s own documents prove the company cut corners on safety and maintenance in order to save money. Today, twenty years after the Bhopal disaster, those who survived the gas remain sick, and the chemicals that Union Carbide left behind in Bhopal have poisoned the water supply and contributed to an epidemic of cancers, birth defects, and other afflictions. Since its purchase of Carbide in 2001, Dow Chemical has refused to clean up the site, which continues to contaminate those near it; fund medical care or livelihood regeneration; or stand trial in Bhopal, where the Union Carbide Corporation faces criminal charges of culpable homicide (manslaughter), and has fled these charges for the past 12 years.
Dow is a major donor to the University of California, Berkeley, with cumulative donations totaling $4.3 million as of October, 2003. The resolution, only the third of its kind in the nation, calls on the University to “reject all donations from Dow or its directly associated foundations in excess of that which the corporation spends to clean up the Bhopal site on an annual basis”—currently nothing. The resolution also demands “the University to…sell the stock” of Dow, and “calls upon the Chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley to write a public letter to Dow Chemical, asking that it accept liability for the disaster, clean up the Bhopal, India factory and provide safe drinking water.” Two previous student government resolutions, at the University of Michigan and Wheaton College (MA), have cited Bhopal in calls for an end to university associations with Dow. Berkeley’s resolution is the first to call for divestment.
SADAN (South Asia Development Alternatives Network), ASAPA (Association for South Asian Political Action), and students from the Energy and Resources Group at UC Berkeley supported the successful resolution.
“This was an important victory for justice, corporate responsibility, and for the thousands of people still suffering in Bhopal,” said Kamal Kapadia of SADAN, an Indian PhD student at Berkeley. “Students at the University of California, Berkeley don’t want to invest in a company that refuses to stop the ongoing contamination of tens of thousands, for which it is responsible. Dow’s behavior in Bhopal is inhumane, unjust, and immoral, and we won’t accept donations that should be spent instead to clean up Bhopal and save lives. Ten to fifteen people continue to die in Bhopal each month; we don’t want their blood on our hands.”
The Associated Students of the University of California is the central student government at the University of California, Berkeley, representing students from every school and college. As the official student voice at the University, it represents the University’s 33,000 students.
The Berkeley resolution text is available online here. More information can be found at www.studentsforbhopal.org.

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