On May 11, 2006, Harold Shapiro, a member of the Dow Board of Directors, tendered his resignation. The obvious question is why: after all, Mr. Shapiro had served on the Dow Board longer than any other Board member, since 1985. Nor was Shapiro any wilting flower; rather he served as President of prestigious institutions such as the University of Michigan and Princeton University, and cultivated exceptional reputations in such fields as economics and bioethics. Nor does Dow compensate its Board members lightly for their troubles, particularly those who, like Mr. Shapiro, chaired Board committees and played leading roles within the corporation.
Shapiro given a sample of contaminated Bhopal water following a public talk on bioethics in 2003.
So we’re left with a bit of a mystery. Could it be that Mr. Shapiro had an attack of conscience after so long, and suddenly began applying the ethical pedigree he’s so well known for to his own behavior? Unlikely. Students and other Bhopal supporters have been visiting Mr. Shapiro regularly since the year 2000; in every instance they’ve found him desperately unwilling to discuss the subject, learn more about the issue, or take any ethical stand.
On May 6, Students for Bhopal launched an international fax campaign demanding that Shapiro renounce his hypocrisy and end his role in the contamination, suffering, and deaths of thousands. Within days more than 400 faxes flooded his office; five days after the action began, he abruptly resigned.
Nor was Shapiro’s resignation the first Dow executive SfB had contributed to toppling. On December 1, 2005, several Bhopal supporters surprised William Stavropoulos, Chairman of the Dow Board, at home. He appeared agitated, refused to speak with the small group of students, and desperately dialed both his private security service and the Midland police for help. According to some accounts, Stavropoulos was so frightened that he urinated in his clothes. A mere twelve days later, on December 13, Stavropoulos announced his intention to resign as chairman of the Dow Board.
The first time students visited the home of a Dow executive was in 2002, when about a dozen students and Bhopal supporters from the University of Michigan traveled to Dow’s hometown of Midland to confront Michael Parker, the CEO. They were surprised to find him hosting a lavish party on the anniversary of Bhopal; 15 minutes of persistent student questioning soon found him exasperated, angry, and finally yelling. A videotape of the encounter was posted on the Greenpeace website; nine days later – on December 12, 2002 – Parker was fired by the Dow Board, which cited “financial reasons”.