| Expel Dow from Your School!
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While the people of Bhopal wallow in chemical sludge, Dow diligently
continues to buy influence at colleges and universities across the
country with giveaways that now total more than $60
million. Find out whether your
university accepts funding from Dow; if so, tell your university
to turn it down until Dow gets its priorities
Why Expel Dow from Your School?
Why not? It’s not as though Dow holds students in
particularly high regard. And really, do we want Dow –
a company with a long and ugly history of
chemical terror – associated with our institutions of
learning? Should our schools be tarnished by Dow’s
profiteering from human suffering and slaughter?
Till date, Dow’s giveaways to colleges and universities have
totaled more than $60 million. That
kind of money buys a lot of influence. And while the projects Dow
funds may not themselves always be objectionable – who can
complain about a nice lecture now and then? – we shouldn’t
have to measure the cost in human life. The fact that Dow has not
acted to stop the ongoing contamination of tens of thousands - for
which it is responsible - is inhumane, unjust, and immoral. Dow’s
evasion of responsibility in Bhopal means that another life is lost
each day, and there’s no reason why our schools should be
complicit in the crime by accepting Dow’s blood money.
Our schools don’t accept drug money. No doubt they’d
turn down a check from Saddam Hussein, the man who ordered the chemical
weapons attack on the Kurdish city of Halabja (killing an estimated
5,000 people). Why should our schools condone the chemical terror
which Dow-Carbide continues to perpetuate in Bhopal? It’s
a question worth asking. And while your school may be reluctant
to take action, other schools are already doing so: for example,
of Arizona, which has an official policy regulating its association
with corporations on ethical grounds.
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How it Makes a Difference
Sixty million dollars is a lot of money. Obviously Dow feels buying
influence at schools across the country is important – more
important, apparently, than human life itself.
The extent of Dow’s involvement
with our institutions of learning implies their importance: colleges
and universities are a central strategic, reputational, and financial
interest to Dow. By threatening Dow’s presence at schools
across the country, we pose a significant threat to Dow’s
business interests: a similar student movement 30 years ago successfully
forced Dow to end its production of napalm
for the US military.
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more about the research Dow may be funding
at your school!
Student pressure threatens Dow’s business interests, forcing
the company to address its responsibilities in Bhopal and agree
to the survivors’ demands.
your campus, community, and university administration about Dow’s
responsibility for ongoing chemical terror in Bhopal
..........2. Organize a widespread campaign,
forcing your school to refuse Dow’s blood money until Dow
accepts its responsibilities in Bhopal
..........3. Harm Dow’s reputation
and humiliate the company through coverage of your campaign in the
..........1. Build a widespread
coalition in support of your efforts
..........2. Pursue the support of students,
faculty, and alumni
..........3. Prepare for the long haul.
Any campaign is likely to last a year or longer before your efforts
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a Student Government Resolution
Draft a resolution calling on your school to divest, reject Dow’s
funding, or expel Dow recruiters. Present the resolution to your
student government with a supporting petition
from the student body, faculty, and alumni.
Find out more
Do you have a Dow Building (or lounge, or plaza) on YOUR campus?
If so, perhaps you should rename it! Do so at night (if you modify
the signs, make sure your changes cause no permanent damage) or
organize a public ceremony and invite the media.
Tell them that Dow’s money isn’t welcome at your school
so long as they neglect their responsibilities in Bhopal.
Alternately, you can organize a “quarantine” of the
building. Dress in white biohazard
suits and white face masks and advise students that entry into
the building might be unsafe, given Dow's
history of environmental contamination.
If you’re really creative, you can borrow a projector, design
a skull and crossbones slide,
and project it onto your campus Dow building.
Petitions are the time-honored way of demonstrating public support
for your campaign and can also be a
useful tool for introducing people to an issue.
Rather than assigning a few people to sit at a table and collect
signatures, it’s more efficient for everyone in the group
to get in on the act, and collect 20 or so signatures per week (or
more if you can) from friends, folks in their dorms, etc. Give people
a basic rap to say, hand out the blank petitions at a meeting and
send them off!
As with other kinds of sign-up sheets, it’s good to put yourself
and a few friends at the top of the sheet so nobody has to be the
first. Keep the original petition and send copies of it to your
Add everyone who signs up to a low-traffic “action alert”
email list, so that they’ll know about other opportunities
to support your efforts.
As a creative variation on traditional petitioning, write a brief
slogan (such as “Justice for Bhopal Now”) on helium
balloons and collect signatures on the balloons before tying them
all over campus.
As a major source of financial support for your school, alumni carry
great weight with the administration. Circulate a sign-on letter
to gather alumni support for your campaign, and make it public if
your school refuses to take action. In extreme circumstances, you
may want to organize an alumni boycott of donations to your school,
or collect donations in a separate fund that you’ll release
to the school when they agree to your demands. Check with your Alumni
Office for a list of major donors to your school.
Are you getting the run-around from your college or university?
Organize one yourself: run in a circle around the home of your college
President or Chancellor to highlight the treatment you’re
getting from your school, and demand action.
Deliver some creatively designed “blood money” to your
school to symbolize its complicity in Dow's crimes in Bhopal –
or plaster the sidewalk in front of Chancellor's house with their
dirty dollars. Alternately, it may be fun to dress up as a Dow executive
and attempt to donate your bloody money to the school.
At Brown University
Get a couple buckets of sidewalk chalk and decorate campus. Chalking
is cheap, fun, creative, and effective. Some schools don’t
like it, but it’s pretty harmless and if you do it late at
night, you’ll avoid scrutiny. You can use it to educate, advertise,
or put pressure on your administration (Ex.: by chalking the night
before a lot of alumni or parents are visiting campus).
One possibility: sketch body outlines around campus (particularly
around the Dow Building, if you have one, or the President’s
house) and write the names of Bhopal
victims inside, or Bhopal slogans.
a Run for Your Life!! Race
Organize a short race to dramatize and re-create the disaster. Begin
with a (dry ice) gas “leak” (outside a Dow building
if you have one on campus) and urge the runners to dash for safety.
Dress up as the Grim Reaper,
catch people as they flee, and give them death
certificates at the end. Award the “survivors” (the
winners) with “metals” symbolizing the continuing chemical
and heavy metal contamination that burdens the people of Bhopal.
At the University
of Michigan, the “Run for Your Life!!” race
served three purposes: raising awareness about the disaster
among the student body in an engaging
and participatory way; drawing attention to the University’s
unacceptable association with Dow, and garnering valuable
publicity for the campaign. Participants were asked to sign
away their rights by a "Dow representative"
sporting a Pinocchio nose.
The Dow rep spoke grandly about Dow's discussions with survivors
and attempts to develop a philanthropic strategy for Bhopal,
but the runners weren't buying it. Instead they signed allegations
of liability, charging the company with ignoring its clear
legal responsibilities in Bhopal.
The race began with a dry ice "gas leak" outside
of the Dow Chemistry Laboratories on Central Campus. Participants
began to cough and soon they fled, chased by a resolute Grim
Reaper sporting a nasty scythe. Before the runners reached
the vicinity of the University Hospitals, more than 40% had
been culled by the Reaper. Death
certificates and stickers reading "I DIED: Ask Me
How" were distributed to those who were caught; the winners
were granted lead and mercury “metals”, symbolizing
the continuing contamination that even the survivors of the
Bhopal disaster continue to face. Water bottles reading "CLEAN
WATER - What Bhopal Lacks" were distributed to all the
participants, who had braved the weather and turned out to
run in spite of near-freezing temperatures. The race received
coverage in the local section of Monday's Ann Arbor News.
bloody handprints of Bhopali children
Build a toxic waste drum out of chicken
wire and paper mache (if you can’t find a real one), paint
it white (red for Dow’s
symbol) and then plant it in a major thoroughfare. As people
pass through, you can ask them to leave their bloody handprints
in red fingerpaint. Then deliver it to a key member of your college
with a demand for action. The same can also be done with a large
Dow On Trial
This is a creative and engaging way of educating the campus community
about the Bhopal disaster. It involves a presentation of evidence,
a prosecution and a defense, and an impartial jury which can convict
Dow on the basis of the evidence presented. You can invite law students,
the mock trial group, or Dow
representatives to participate, and notify
the media - and Dow - of the outcome.
Alternately, you could empanel a group of students as a Grand Jury
and ask them to issue an indictment. A Grand Jury would differ from
a full trial in that:
..........• The standard of proof
is lower. The Grand Jury simply needs to conclude that a "preponderance
of the evidence" suggests that a party is guilty. A conviction
requires reasonable doubt.
..........• In a trial, there
is a prosecutor and a defendant. However the Grand Jury is simpler:
there are no judges or opposing lawyers, only the prosecution and
an impartial body of citizens. Evidence is presented, and on the
basis of that evidence the Grand Jury decides whether or not to
indict. A Grand Jury can also subpoena witnesses and evidence.
..........• An indictment leaves
open the interesting possibility of a response from the company.
In the indictment, you can demand that a Dow representative appear
to stand trial at your school. In the unlikely event that one does
appear, then you could have an actual trial - and that would certainly
be interesting. However what you'll likely receive instead is a
letter from Dow, espousing their PR
talking points, which you'll be able to post for the whole school
to read. If they fail to appear, you can declare them "absconders",
just like the Chief Judicial Magistrate
court in Bhopal, and issue arrest warrants for the Board of
Directors and your University Administration.
The whole process is interactive theater from start to finish,
and it lends itself to media coverage: "Blah University Students
Indict $40 Billion Company for Corporate Manslaughter". You
can even give interviews "in character" as the prosecutor
or as a juror.
the "Dow Grim Reaper"
Dress up as the Dow Grim Reaper
by painting or taping Dow's symbol on the front of a Grim Reaper
costume. Then cull your student body by handing them “death
slips” that explain how and why your victims have died.
It’s a fun way to spread the word about Bhopal - and let everyone
know who’s responsible.
out “Bhopal Water”
Concoct a nasty brew of foul-tasting ingredients and hand it out
to students on a silver platter. Dress up as a waiter and approach
people on your college green or in your school’s cafeterias.
Invite them to try the Bhopal water but insist that they sign a
liability waiver in case
of injury or death. Educate yourself beforehand about the
toxins found in actual Bhopal water.
A creative twist: befoul (but do no damage to) a public fountain.
Dress up as Dow executives and angrily assert that the water is
clean, and fine for drinking. Refuse to drink the water yourselves
but insist that others do so.
of Michigan, 2002
Dramatize the gas leak with toxic waste barrels and foaming dry
ice. Makes a great spectacle!
Public fasts and hunger strikes can be a
powerful way of demonstrating your commitment, generating media
coverage, and winning supporters to your side. Consider a day-long
collective hunger strike, a rotating hunger strike, or an indefinite
hunger strike (although most people can go without food for several
days, consult your doctor). If you’re planning an indefinite
hunger strike, make sure that some of your leaders don’t join
in – they’ll need their energy to organize support behind
your struggle. Be sure to drink lots of water. Fasting is a traditional
non-violent tactic that has been used by women
suffragists, Gandhi, Dorothy Day, political prisoners and others.
If you are going on a prolonged hunger strike (more than 1-3 days),
read up on it first, so you know what you’re doing.
The purpose of a rally is to show your level of support to your
target, to invigorate your supporters and to attract media attention
to bring new people into the campaign. Rallies can include chanting,
signs, banners, music, marching, street theater, impassioned speeches,
humor, presenting petitions and anything else you like. The advertising
could and should include:
..........• Press releases to
papers, radio, and TV (with follow-up)
..........• Announcements in classes
and to other groups
..........• Chalking on the sidewalks
..........• Mailings to your mailing
list, and calls to your phone list
In front of
the Indian Consulate in New York
Develop a sensible time-line and make sure everything gets done
on time, with people assigned to specific tasks - as usual, you
can do a good job at a reasonable pace with a lot of people, or
a bad job frantically with just a few. It’s especially important
to have some last-minute advertising the day of the rally - chalk
on the sidewalks the night before, leaflet the day of, etc.
Rallies usually begin with a short introduction by an MC and then
a series of speeches, chants, music, and so on. Some things to help
rallies go well:
..........• Keep speakers on strict
time limits that you warn them about in advance. Have a fearless
MC signal ‘timeout’ if they go over.
..........• Use the rally to promote
your group. You deserve the reward for organizing it.
..........• If it’s outside,
remember to put a rain location on the posters.
..........• Have a good diversity
of speakers (gender, race, etc.) and don’t rely again and
again on the same good speakers. New people need to develop those
skills too, and they’ll have a blast. Trust them.
..........• Have several people
designated as representatives to the press.
..........• Getting people to
crowd together and having colorful banners in the background will
make for good pictures.
..........• Have a few marshals
on hand to direct the crowd, lead chants, and so on.
..........• Make the rally visually
attractive - lots of signs and banners, T-shirts with slogans, costumes
and theater and so on. You can cheaply make full color T-shirts
with color inkjet printers, an iron, and T-shirt transfer paper
(1.50 a sheet). How about a nighttime march, carrying torches? Ooooh!
..........• Find them - don’t
wait for them to find you. Control the media, instead of letting
them control you.
..........• Have several “sound
bites” ready beforehand. Saying these, and repeating them
if necessary, is a higher priority than answering the reporter’s
questions (sad, but true).
..........• Don’t make long-winded
speeches; they’ll be edited to death.
..........• A press packet prepared
beforehand with detailed information might help.
..........• Do what you can to
make the audience well informed - it looks bad for them to say,
“Well, uh, I guess I came cause, well, yah know, I’m
really concerned about stuff.”
Drop a banner from a high spot. Big Banner. Good photo-op.
Sit-ins are a tactic that first gained popularity in the Thirties
in the labor movement, then in the Sixties in the Civil Rights movement.
They have recently gained notoriety for their successful use by
the student anti-sweatshop movement. Occupying (or sitting-in) a
building is one of the strongest non-violent forms of action that
a group can take. By sitting in your school president’s office,
or an important part of the administration building, you reduce
their ability to operate. The result can be anything from confusion,
to intense hostility, to capitulation. You risk punishment and arrest,
but by acting boldly you’ll get extensive media coverage and
greatly increase the likelihood of negotiations and their success.
You should NOT hold a sit-in until you have worked
through the initial stages of educating people and holding one or
more protests. A sit-in is a last resort, and should
not be done out of the blue. However if, after having worked on
an issue for a long time, you’re hitting your head against
a brick wall, then the time might be ripe for a sit-in.
You’ll need a core group of people to start the effort. Organize
a series of meetings over the course of which you introduce and
discuss the sit-in option. Don’t force reluctant people to
commit, but over a couple weeks build up a list of people willing
to sit-in. Get them to sign a pledge and repeatedly verify that
they are comfortable doing so. Aim for group consensus on the decision
to sit-in. Members who do not want to sit-in will hopefully be supportive
of those who do, and you need some activists on the outside to organize
rallies in your support. Discuss what you’ll do if security
tells you to leave. Scout out the site. It should be strategic (a
site of power), ideally near the center of campus (where you can
gather supporters), and large enough to accommodate your group of
people for a couple days or more.
To avoid security stopping you before you can get in the building,
you should keep the discussion of doing a sit-in off all email lists
(especially details of date and time). Rely upon word-of-mouth,
calling people and group meetings.
forget your hippopotamus
Here’s a list of things to bring:
..........• Food and water
..........• Deodorant (and other
personal hygiene items)
..........• Blankets, sleeping
..........• Books, cards, homework
..........• Cellular phone(s):
to call outside supporters and the media
..........• List of outside supporters
and media to call
..........• Scanner radio: for
$50-$100 you can buy a handheld scanner that will let you listen
to your security and city police, hopefully giving you advance warning
before they take any action (though using it to do so is slightly
illegal). Tip: Try Ebay or this
site for a cheap scanner. Also you should be able to find a
list of frequencies on the web.
..........• Reporter(s): the more
reporter present, the better you will get treated by your target
(the more likely they are to negotiate and grant your demands).
..........• Don’t overpack.
You might have the freedom to come and leave, in which case you
can arrange to deliver assignments and stay on top of your courses.
Leave the space neat and tidy. Don’t punish the underpaid
secretaries and janitors who will have to clean up any mess you
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and fact sheets about Bhopal
Media Advisory/Press Release
..........• Draft Bhopal Quartersheets:
One & Two
list of dead & injured
a sample of Bhopal water or an educational resource
..........• Amnesty International
Campus Petition Drives: A Strategy
..........• Sample petitions for
students and faculty
facts for hunger-strikers (courtesy of United Students Against
..........• Publicity fliers (One
& Two) about the Bhopal Photo
exhibit at the University of Michigan
..........• A bus
advertisement about the Bhopal Photo exhibit at the University
..........• Check with university
or city officials to see whether your "Run for Your Life!"
race needs a permit.
..........• You may require insurance
for a "Run for Your Life!" race. K&K
Insurance offers reasonable rates.
..........• Publicity fliers (One
& Two) about the "Run
for Your Life!" race at the University of Michigan
..........• A "Run
for Your Life!" ad that ran in the Ann Arbor News
..........• A bus
advertisement about the "Run for Your Life!" race
at the University of Michigan
facts for hunger-strikers (courtesy of United Students Against
in! A Tactical Analysis by Aaron Kreider
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Challenging Dow: How We Did
It At The University of Michigan
By Ryan Bodanyi
In the fall of 2002, a small group of students came together at
the University of Michigan to form the first campus campaign for
Justice in Bhopal. We knew that we wanted to pressure Dow by challenging
its relationship to the University of Michigan, and since Dow, a
$40 billion company, was headquartered only an hour and a half away,
we figured that Dow might have a significant presence at our school.
But first we had to figure out what it was.
We started our research in October of 2002. Our task was made easier
by the fact that our school was a public institution, so the first
thing that we did was to file an open
records request. A few of us had had previous experience filing
requests, and we knew where within the University the requests should
be filed. In the meanwhile, we began an intensive search of the
school’s website, using a wide variety of search terms designed
to bring up any articles, press releases or websites that might
reveal the extent of the University’s relationship with Dow.
This part was tedious; usually research is, but we uncovered a treasure
trove of material. Leading University officials had been quoted
publicly saying such things as “We are grateful to Dow - for
their generosity, for their support, and for their trust.”
Trust? Our school was grateful for Dow’s trust?
Obviously Dow’s cash had bought it a lot of influence at the
University of Michigan, an unsettling thought given what
we knew about Dow.
When we received the University’s response to our open records
request a month later, we learned that the University didn’t
own any Dow stock. However Dow was a major contributor
to the University of Michigan (over $12 million, placing it nearly
in the top 25 all-time donors), and its associated foundations had
contributed millions more. It was impressive to see Dow’s
name on campus buildings, but
from our research we knew that they only contributed a tiny fraction
– sometimes as little as four or five percent – of the
total building costs. And while lecture series are nice (who doesn’t
enjoy a nice lecture now and then?), we considered it immoral to
accept their money while Dow refused to spend that very same money
to clean up its contamination in Bhopal – from which people
continue to die every day. We decided that something had to be done.
But what? We put our heads together and crafted a plan of action.
Armed with our new knowledge, we approached the Michigan Daily,
our campus newspaper, and they agreed to do a feature on Dow, Bhopal,
and the University’s ties to both. Eventually, this feature
(published in January, 2003) grew
to a sprawling full-page spread, and included six full articles,
several of them written by us. It caused a major stir when it was
published, and gave added momentum to our campaign. In the meanwhile,
we drafted a resolution that we planned to submit to the Michigan
Student Assembly (MSA) which called on the University to refuse
future donations from Dow until Dow began spending an equivalent
amount to clean up Bhopal. We chose this strategy because we felt
it was critical that we have demonstrable support from students
for our cause – asking the University to refuse free money
is a controversial thing, and we didn’t want to negotiate
with the university without being able to say that we had the students
on our side. Garnering some measurable example of student support
would also make it easier for us to ask faculty for their support
– we understood that on the University totem pole, students
were ranked rather low, but we didn’t think that many faculty
would support our campaign without having the excuse of widespread
Drafting the resolution was one thing; gathering support was another.
We chose a two-pronged approach. On the one hand, we’d ask
regular students crossing the Diag (our campus crossroads) to sign
a petition endorsing the resolution. On the other hand, we decided
to approach other student groups and ask to speak about the resolution
at their next meeting. Most student groups were more than willing
to give us five minutes of their time, and we found that talking
about Bhopal and the resolution served two purposes: first, student
groups of all stripes (even musical, athletic, and conservative
political groups) were willing to sign on; second, and more importantly,
we were reaching out to active students throughout the university.
While most were supportive, there were a few, usually one or two
per group, who were outraged, and wanted to get further involved.
Of course we told them to come to our weekly meetings and within
a few weeks our meetings were huge, and represented a broad spectrum
of students across the university.
On March 17, 2003, when the resolution came due for a vote before
the Student Assembly, we were ready. Fully 28 student groups had
signed on in support – unheard of for a student resolution
– and 700 individual students had signed petitions in support.
Several faculty members had signed on in support as well, and we’d
lined up thirteen students – at 5 minutes each – to
speak in favor of the resolution. As it happens, we were lucky that
the support was so overwhelming. Dow had heard about our resolution
and they weren’t happy. In fact, they had their head of Public
Relations take time away from dealing with Agent
Orange, dioxin, nemagon and Dow’s other scandals to focus
his time on us. Unbeknownst to us, Dow had obtained a copy of our
resolution and had developed slick rebuttals line by line –
rebuttals that were no
less slick or persuasive for being lies. These were read out
in front of the Student Assembly, and if our support had been less
substantial (or if we’d had fewer people there to explain
how Dow was lying) we could easily have lost the vote. In the end
it was close – 13 in favor, 10 voting against, with 7 abstentions.
But we won! Dow was defeated and we celebrated.
From the start, we understood that it would be impossible to end
Dow’s influence within a single school year. When we began
the campaign no one knew about Bhopal or why it was important. By
the end of the year Dow was afraid to show its face on campus lest
we organize a protest (they learned this the hard way). Professors
and Deans within several schools were privately questioning Dow’s
influence in their departments and whether it should continue. Senior
University officials were in closed-door discussions with Dow about
our campaign, we learned. Only one thing stood in the way of ultimate
With newer blood, we could have carried on the campaign the following
year, building faculty and community support and making Dow’s
influence at the University politically untenable. But our group
made the cardinal error that so many campus groups do: the leaders
were all seniors! Graduation was like a decapitation, and instead
of starting where we had left off next fall, the group started back
at square one.
Despite that painful lesson, others are hopeful. Within one year
it is possible to build widespread awareness and outrage about Bhopal.
It is possible to challenge Dow’s influence at our schools,
and to pose a threat by doing so. It is possible to defeat them
in battle – with time, a smart strategy, and a strong group
it is possible to win. Now, it’s your turn!
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