| Pass A Student Government
Pass 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.
Why Pass A Resolution?
One of the best things about pursuing a resolution is that it gives
you an excuse to approach other student groups on your campus and
talk with them about Bhopal. Once they learn about the disaster,
many people want to help out and get involved. Therefore it’s
a good idea to bring some ideas about
how folks can contribute to your campaign before you approach them.
Thirty years ago students across the country united to expel
Dow and their moral destitution from their college and university
campuses. The protests soiled Dow’s reputation for more than
a decade, and remain a key reason why Dow invests so heavily in
colleges today. The possibility that a new generation of students
might rise once again to expel Dow from schools across the country
isn’t only a threat to Dow’s business and bottom line
– it’s the manifestation of one of their worst fears.
Make it real.
Demanding that your school expel a $40 billion corporation makes
waves – and it makes news. Media coverage
not only highlights your campaign, it soils Dow’s high-priced
public relations image. And who doesn’t want to do that?
Student Governments aren’t the only folks that have condemned
Dow recently: the City of San
Francisco, the European Parliament, and members of the US Congress
have all passed resolutions demanding justice for Bhopal. You can
see how this is becoming a major headache for Dow. Once the precedent
is set, these things start to snowball, and pretty soon Dow could
find itself universally reviled. That’s their fear, anyway.
It’s our job to make it a reality.
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How to Pass A Resolution
Is Dow at YOUR school? If you don’t
know, you should find out! Research Dow’s influence at your
college or university, and discuss how you can challenge it. Once
you’ve agreed on a larger campaign,
you may decide that pursuing a student government resolution should
play an important role. Make sure that your final resolution includes
specific information about Dow’s associations with
The easiest way for you to demonstrate support among the student
body for your resolution (far easier than petitioning) is to have
other student groups sign on as co-sponsors of the resolution. The
easiest way to get them to sign on to your resolution is to ask,
generally at one of their meetings. They'll probably want some time
to look over the resolution, unless you've sent it beforehand over
email. And they'll probably want to ask you questions about the
resolution and the Bhopal disaster. Most student groups will usually
be happy to sign on. At the University of Michigan,
28 student groups signed on to their successful Bhopal resolution
before it was brought to the student government for a vote. On the
other hand, only one group sponsored the successful Bhopal resolution
at Wheaton College. It’s probably safe to say that the larger
your university is, and the more ties to Dow that it has, the more
support you'll want to have for your resolution before you present
it to the student government for a vote.
If you're really on top of things, you can also try to gather some
faculty support for your resolution. There are probably professors
that you've developed a relationship with while you've been at the
university and who you may feel comfortable asking for support.
Several professors at the University of Michigan signed on in support
of the Bhopal resolution there; the students at Wheaton didn't gather
any faculty support for their successful resolution. Again, how
much faculty support you decide to gather will probably depend on
the size of your university and the extent of its associations with
In order to present your resolution officially before the student
government, you'll probably need to find one member of the student
government who’s willing to sponsor the resolution. This shouldn't
be too hard. Many of the student groups that you're talking with
will probably be able to suggest sympathetic members who’d
be willing to offer the resolution for a vote.
It's always good to plan on making a presentation before the student
government in support of the resolution, even if they already seem
likely to pass it. Most student governments will allow supporters
of a resolution the opportunity to speak before it's voted on. Identifying
people to speak on behalf of the resolution will give you an additional
opportunity to make your case, and to answer any questions they
might have. If you’re really clever, you can start early by
inviting student reps to attend documentary screenings and other
educational events before the vote.
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student government resolution
Media Advisory/Press Release
and fact sheets about Bhopal
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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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