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Use It Or Lose It: Shares in Dow

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Does YOUR college or university own shares in Dow? Many do – nationwide, more than $110 million in Dow stock is owned by colleges and universities. If your school is one of them, they should use it or lose it – use it to support the Bhopal Shareholder’s Resolution or lose it through divestment.

Why Use It Or Lose It? The Campaign
How it Makes a Difference Overcoming Objections
Campaign Outline Action Ideas
Before You Start Resources

Why Use It Or Lose It?

If your school owns Dow shares, it means they partially own – and profit from – Dow’s business around the world. It means your tuition dollars are supporting a company responsible for human suffering and death the world over, and that your school owns and profits from Dow’s crimes. It means your school bears responsibility – the responsibility to act. And it can do so in one of two ways:

Shareholder Progress

Shareholder proposals can help change company policies that dictate how a company operates, whether or not they achieve final passage. For example, by using shareholder proposals, Amnesty International (in coalition with other investors) has been able to engage ExxonMobil in a dialogue about the company’s human rights obligations, moving them to publicly proclaim that they condemn human rights violations in any form and indicate their intent to uphold the core labor standards set forth by the International Labor Organization. Moreover, ExxonMobil began participating in the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights, something the company had earlier refused to do. In addition, Amnesty and coalition partners recently won two victories with ALLTEL and Carlisle regarding the adoption of sexual orientation non-discrimination policies, by using shareholder proposals.

Use it: Support the Bhopal Shareholder’s Resolution
Every year since 2004, concerned shareholders have introduced a resolution calling on Dow to explain how Bhopal is likely to affect the company, its reputation, and its finances, and any plan that the company may have to address the concerns of the Bhopal survivors. As with every resolution, all shareholders have the opportunity to vote – in fact, they’re expected to do so, in line with their role as owners of the corporation. As with most votes, it’s a pretty simple choice: a yes or no judgment call. Unfortunately many shareholders choose not to consult their better judgment, preferring instead to vote as management recommends – and you’ve got three guesses as to what Dow recommends.

So long as your school is committed to owning Dow shares, it has a responsibility to use them to vote in favor of the Bhopal Shareholder’s Resolution. By doing so, your school will be using its share power to support the cause of justice in Bhopal. And doing so is easy: share voting is quick, costs nothing, and they're probably doing it anyway. A vote in favor of the Bhopal Shareholder’s Resolution isn’t only the right choice – it’s an easy one.

Divestment History

Copyright Lincoln Cushing, 1985

Apartheid South Africa was based on an "us here, them there" formula of territorial segregation in which the white-ruled areas consisted of 87 percent of the country, including the big cities and most of the arable land. Starting with campus campaigns and city resolutions, a nationwide divestment campaign emerged in the 1980s, drawing increasing attention to the struggle of black South Africans and penalizing any corporation that supported racism by doing business in the country. The campaign was the first to convince many public institutions, including universities, to divest for moral or ethical reasons, and it ultimately played an instrumental role in pressuring the South African government to end Apartheid. From that campaign has sprung others: a successful nationwide campaign against tobacco investment; a campaign against investment in Israel; and an ongoing effort against corporations doing business with the military regime in Burma (PepsiCo left Burma after a high profile campus-based campaign, as did Texaco after the University of Wisconsin, Madison sold over $230,000 worth of stock).

Lose it: Divest from Dow
The stronger stand to take is divestment, or selling the shares your school owns in Dow. In this way, your school or university would be washing their hands of the company entirely - a profound public statement to make on behalf of justice. Students at Berkeley recently succeeded in passing a resolution through their student government calling on the school to do exactly that. And while your school may be reluctant to take such dramatic action, there are compelling moral and financial reasons for them to do so.

Moral: College endowments are wonderful things – nobody would argue with that – but we shouldn’t have to measure their 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 profit from the crime through their ownership of stock in Dow.

Financial: Frankly, Death is a poor investment. Dow has huge outstanding liabilities in Bhopal and pretty much every other place on earth. Don’t take our word for it: the professionals have said so themselves. Read the detailed financial report Dow Chemical: Risks for Investors by Innovest Strategic Value Advisors.

If your school owns stock in Dow, they should use it – or they should lose it. Leaving the choice open should enable you to form a wider coalition in support of your campaign, and it should also make a public victory more likely. Because one way or the other, the hardest position to justify is the status quo – the act of doing nothing.

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How it Makes a Difference

College endowments and foundations aren’t small change. Endowments can total hundreds of millions, sometimes billions, of dollars. The University of California alone has $52 billion combined in its endowment and other funds. Even a small school can have millions. Scripps College, for example, has over $200 million. Obviously, such large shareholders can exert tremendous pressure over a company and the decisions it makes, and bringing that pressure to bear in favor of Bhopal offers us a tremendous opportunity. Although resolutions such as Bhopal rarely approach the 50% threshold required for passage, sizeable votes in favor can nevertheless be a terribly embarrassing rebuke for the company and inspire media scrutiny they’d prefer to avoid. Quite often, corporations will be prepared to negotiate – and even concede some or all of a resolution’s demands – in order to prevent a vote which may prove humiliating to the corporate management.

Divestment is a similar public rebuke to the company, only on a grander scale. Its significance lies not in its ability to hurt Dow’s bottom line, but its ability to soil its reputation and thereby its share price. An ongoing nationwide divestment campaign casts an understandable pall over a company; the fact that so many shareholders and venerable institutions are willing to sell their stock in protest makes a profound statement – and it can be utterly humiliating to the corporate management. Most will go to any length to thwart a successful divestment campaign, because if allowed to continue – well, just look what can happen. Apartheid and tobacco were painted irrevocably as moral pariahs by divestment campaigns, and it’s done them no favors. Our task is adding Dow to the list.

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Campaign Outline

Dow Shareholders demand justice for Bhopal by publicly divesting and voting in favor of the Bhopal Shareholder’s Resolution, embarrassing the company and forcing it to address the survivors’ demands.


  1. Educate 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 vote in favor of the Bhopal Shareholder’s Resolution or to divest from the company.
  3. Harm Dow’s reputation and humiliate the company through coverage of your campaign in the media.


  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 are successful.

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Before You Start

Step One: Research
Before you start your campaign, there’s a few things that you’ll want to know:
..........1. Is YOUR school invested in Dow? IF SO:
..........2. Who are the persons responsible for investments? Who makes decisions on how to vote for a shareholder proposal, or whether to divest? Is it an elected body?
..........3. Have they voted on the Bhopal resolution in the past and if so, which way did they vote? Have they, or have they ever considered, filing or co-filing on a shareholder proposal?
..........4. What are their proxy voting guidelines, which direct their voting on shareholder proposals? What is their policy on divestment? Are they in violation of their own policy?

If you attend a public college or university, information regarding their investments and policy is public. Anyone can request this information by contacting them, preferably by a formal letter and a follow-up call. If that route proves difficult, you should be able to obtain the information you need with an open record request. If you attend a private school, you may have to be a little more creative with your research.

If it so happens that your school is already a supporter of the Bhopal Shareholder’s Resolution, then great! You can still ask them to take the next step and support the resolution as an active co-filer.

Step Two: Formulate Your Campaign
Now that you’ve had the chance to assess the information you’ve collected you should have a clear idea of the demands your campaign will focus on. Draft a statement outlining these demands, which will form the basis of your campaign.

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The Campaign

Step One: Educate Yourself
Make sure that your group is familiar with the issues surrounding Bhopal, and that you’re able to speak about them with confidence. This website and the Amnesty International report on Bhopal, Clouds of Injustice, are excellent places to start. Links to more detailed background information is available on our Resources page. You should also familiarize yourself with shareholder activism in general, the Bhopal Shareholder Resolution in particular, other successful divestment campaigns, and previous divestment efforts at your school.

Step Two: Build a Coalition
Build a coalition in support of your campaign. Reach out to other organizations in your area – make sure that you’re not only talking to the “usual suspects” but that you’re also reaching out to a wide range of potential supporters, including your local Amnesty International chapter, community groups, Indian or Indian-American organizations, ecological or religious groups, NGOs etc. The networking possibilities are endless!

Step Three: Find a Champion
Identify an administrator within the university or a member of the endowment board that you think will be sympathetic toward your issue. This is essential. Without an official who will actually take ownership of the issue and make it his or her cause, it’ll be far more difficult for you to prevail. You can identify likely champions by asking your coalition partners for advice and asking around.

Contact your champion. Once you arrange a meeting, try to organize as diverse a group as possible to represent your cause. By involving a wide range of coalition partners in the discussion, you demonstrate that your issue has community support. At the meeting, make a strong case for why action is important. Most likely, the official will never have heard about Bhopal before, so you should come prepared with such background information as the Amnesty International report on Bhopal, Clouds of Injustice; the financial report Dow Chemical: Risks for Investors; and a Bhopal film such as Litigating Disaster which lays out the complicated legal issues in a brief and powerful way. You may also want to bring a copy of the Bhopal Shareholder Resolution, and any brief informational sheets that might be useful. Although the official may agree right away – if so, great news! – it’s more likely that they’ll want some time to go over the information and consider it. Leave your contact information, but offer to call back in a week or two and see what they may have decided.

If they do decide to offer their support, ask them to help organize support - your champion may have more access to other decision makers than you ever will. They should also help you chart the political landscape. When meeting with your champion, ask them to predict which other endowment board members or administrators are needed for support, and what may be the best approaches to convincing them.

Step Four: Building Support
Generally-speaking, there are three main constituencies that you should organize on behalf of your campaign. They are:

  1. Students
  2. Faculty
  3. Alumni
  • Ask the student government and faculty senate for a resolution of official support. Contact alumni and wealthy donors to your school (you should be able to get a nice list from the alumni office) and ask them to sign on to a formal letter in support of your campaign.
  • Draft a letter or petition outlining your demands, based on the response you receive. Address the letter to the person in charge of the endowment board and/or your school President or Chancellor. The more signatures you get for your letters and the more public attention you attract, the more powerful your campaign will be! As with your initial inquiry, be sure to attach any relevant information to your letter or
  • Use the media to cover your story and draw attention to your campaign. Make the case that action is needed. Offer opinion pieces and letters to the editor to local newspapers.
  • Organize educational events and other actions to raise the profile of your campaign and get more people involved.

Step Five: Move When the Time is Right

  • Allow the university administration and endowment board to perform their due diligence as they consider possible actions. Look at this as an opportunity for more information!
  • Consult with your champion as to when a formal proposal should be made to the board. Make sure that the timing is right.
  • Prepare for a hearing. Decide which coalition members should speak. Decide who should say what.
  • Make your pitch for action!

Step Six: Assess Your Progress
If you’re having trouble receiving a response, continue pushing. Follow up with a call or visit if more than 2 weeks have gone by and you haven’t heard from them. If they refuse to answer all or some of your questions, ask them to reply in writing as to why they will not provide the information. Remember that a refusal is not a failure! It can be used effectively in your campaigning. Letters to the editor or op-eds in your local newspaper may also be an effective route if officials are turning a deaf ear.

  • Assess the response you receive based on your demands. Consult with your coalition members about next steps.
  • If you’re not satisfied with the response, plan a follow up letter, meeting and public actions if necessary. Publish the response in your local paper and other news outlets along with your new demands, if any.
  • If the response is favorable, be sure to follow up with thanks. Make a public statement of appreciation in your local papers.

Remember that your campaign will constantly be evolving based on the progress you’re making, and how receptive or stubborn your targets may be. You may need to adapt your campaign demands based on the responses you receive. If necessary, set escalating objectives for your campaign.

REPEAT UNTIL YOUR GOALS ARE MET! Like all campaigns, yours might not be immediately successful, but perseverance will pay off!

Step Seven: Share What You’ve Learned
Log in to the Amnesty SHARE POWER forum to learn about similar campaigns across the country and share what you’ve learned.

More Information

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Overcoming Objections

You may find that some or all of these objections will be raised in the course of your campaign. This should help you overcome them.

The University Should Not Take a Political Position
Because of the University’s position in society as an intellectual and ethical center, and as a place of learning, it has a responsibility toward the local and global community. In fact, you may find exactly this responsibility enshrined in your school’s charter, or at the very least in the public statements of its leaders and administration. In order for the University to fulfill its role as a humanistic institution of higher learning, there must be an institutional commitment to justice. If your school is invested in Dow, and therefore profits from Dow’s crimes, your school bears responsibility – the responsibility to act. Not acting is itself a political position - one that denies that the University must act in a socially and morally responsible fashion. Ample precedent has been set for both support of public-interest shareholder resolutions and outright divestment by colleges and universities nationwide, including (possibly) yours. As it stands, Dow’s continuing inaction in Bhopal represents a serious conflict with the central values of the University and its humanistic tradition.

Divestment/Shareholder Action Leads to a “Slippery Slope”
Board members may oppose divestment or shareholder action because it introduces social or moral decision-making into what they argue should be purely financial decisions. There is concern that if an endowment takes action, it may be forced to consider many different shareholder actions or divestment requests that come from proponents of other social or political causes which could detract from their day-to-day responsibilities.

Whether or not your school’s endowment decides to take action, other social issues will be raised. Your school will have to decide on each issue. Some schools have adopted policies to guide their decision-making on these issues. Either a pre-existing policy or specific findings accompanying their action can be used later to distinguish why the endowment took a particular action - and/or why a new request is not being taken.

Divestment is Illegal
A common argument against divestment specifically is that making financial decisions based on anything other than financial criteria is a violation of the endowment’s legal duty to the beneficiaries.

Divestment is totally legal. A Baltimore case about South Africa divestment held that it was legal (Board of Trustees v. Mayor of Baltimore). Schools just need to take the proper steps and fulfill their fiduciary duty. What’s fiduciary duty? People trusted to manage a fund such as an endowment are required to be prudent investors and not make rash decisions. They must be loyal to the beneficiaries of the funds. Violations of that trust come from doing something illegal, like stealing money, or from taking too little care in making decisions. Each investment decision must be well-researched and reasonable at the time it is made. College trustees must take time and study an issue like divestment before they make a decision. For that reason, divestment campaigns can take some time, but be patient. They work.

The governing board of a university endowment or foundation can choose to divest from Dow so long as the assets are reinvested in investments of similar risk and projected return. The trustees can decide that Dow is a bad investment, and that selling the current holdings and avoiding these investments in the future is warranted on purely financial grounds. Alternatively, if the board finds that non-Dow investments offer equivalent risk-adjusted return, and all other things are equal, the board can sell Dow shares based on non-financial reasons.

Voting for the Bhopal Shareholder Resolution is Too Complicated
Too complicated? Do they also have trouble opening doors and tying shoelaces? If they continue to insist, then you can suggest an even simpler solution: selling the stock entirely and divesting.

Divestment Costs Too Much
Another common concern is that divestment will create new costs to the endowment fund. These new costs could arise in three ways: increased transaction costs, less diversification, and lost investment revenues.

Endowment funds may be “passively” or “actively” managed, usually a combination of the two. In the actively managed portion of their funds, board members (or, more likely, the financial managers the trustees have hired) may conclude that Dow stocks are a good investment and will include these stocks in their portfolio. Most plans also passively manage a portion of their funds by investing them in a wide range of companies that are part of an index such as the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). The goal of passive investment is to hold a diversified portfolio that rises and falls with the stock market as a whole as reflected in the index. The endowment fund would own Dow if it’s included in the selected index.

Diversification can be achieved without Dow. It is true that removing stocks from passive indexes is not the norm. In practice however, achieving this outcome usually will be easy. If the endowment fund has created its own index fund comprised of all the stocks making up the NYSE, the plan can sell Dow’s shares and from then on simply passively hold an index designated as the NYSE Ex-Dow. CalSTRS has done this with a modified Russell 3000 index fund. This strategy still provides diversification and hence lowered risk, as well as the low administrative expenses that come with passive investment. If Dow’s stock ultimately does worse than the rest of the NYSE, the fund will actually be better off having divested. Furthermore, because the Dow comprises such a tiny share of the overall value of the NYSE, it’s extremely unlikely that the return from the NYSE Ex-Dow will significantly differ from the NYSE no matter how Dow stocks do in the future.

Incremental selling can minimize costs. Endowment funds that gradually divest from Dow stocks will be successful in minimizing or avoiding transaction costs. Selling a large block of stock in a short period of time can negatively impact a stock’s market value, resulting in a potential loss of funds for the portfolio. This is typical supply and demand: if a product is scarce, its value increases; if a product is abundant – as can be the case when large stock holdings are sold quickly – its value decreases.

To avoid this, fund managers can sell Dow holdings slowly, so as not to glut the market and decrease the value of the stock. Incremental selling of Dow stock is the best strategy to protect the assets of the fund. Dow holdings can be sold at a time that is most cost-effective for the fund.

A decision to divest should direct financial managers to do so within a certain time frame. For example, California’s South Africa divestment law set forth a period of several years by the end of which divestment should be completed. Likewise, Massachusetts required that its tobacco holdings be sold within a three-year period. The executive director of the retirement board instructed fund managers to sell all tobacco-related holdings subject to the divestment law “as quickly and prudently as practicable” within the three-year period. The managers were given discretion as to how and when the stocks would be sold, with the proviso that they not delay the sale unless they could make a compelling case for doing so. In fact, all of the state’s tobacco stocks were sold within three months of the governor signing the law.

Cross-trading can nearly eliminate costs. Endowment funds regularly incur transaction costs based on how often they buy and sell stock. However, if the shares are cross-traded with other portfolios under an investment manager’s control, the market impact and transaction costs can be reduced to practically zero.

Finally, if your school feels that divestment would still be an unbearable financial burden, then what are they waiting for? Voting in favor of the Bhopal Shareholder Resolution costs them absolutely nothing.

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Action Ideas

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.

Find out more

University of Michigan

Dow Buildings
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 about Dow's crimes in Bhopal, and your school's obligation to act.

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 target(s).

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.

Balloon Petition
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.

Alumni Support
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.

The Run-Around
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.

Blood Money
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.

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.

Organize 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.

View more photos from the race!

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.

A thousand bloody handprints of Bhopali children

Bloody Handprints
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 cloth banner.

Put 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.

Summon 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.

Hand 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.

University of Michigan, 2002

Leaking Barrels
Dramatize the gas leak with toxic waste barrels and foaming dry ice. Makes a great spectacle!

Fasts or Hunger-Strikes
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 and blackboards
..........• Mailings to your mailing list, and calls to your phone list
..........• Posters

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!

Press tips:
..........• 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.”

Banner Drops
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.

Don't forget your hippopotamus

Here’s a list of things to bring:
..........• Backpacks
..........• Food and water
..........• Deodorant (and other personal hygiene items)
..........• Blankets, sleeping bags, pillows
..........• Books, cards, homework
..........• Cameras
..........• Signs
..........• Laptops
..........• 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 leave.

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..........Handouts and fact sheets about Bhopal
..........Draft Media Advisory/Press Release
..........Bhopal Posters
..........Draft advertising poster
..........• Draft Bhopal Quartersheets: One & Two
..........Survivor testimonials
..........Partial list of dead & injured
..........Bhopal poetry
..........Bhopal graphics
..........Bhopal slogans
..........Understand your rights
..........Request a sample of Bhopal water or an educational resource
..........• Amnesty International report: Clouds of Injustice
..........In-depth background information
..........• The financial report Dow Chemical: Risks for Investors
..........Effective Campus Petition Drives: A Strategy
..........• Sample petitions for students and faculty to sign
..........Health facts for hunger-strikers (courtesy of United Students Against Sweatshops)
..........• 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 of Michigan
..........• 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
..........Health facts for hunger-strikers (courtesy of United Students Against Sweatshops)
..........Sit in! A Tactical Analysis by Aaron Kreider

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The international student campaign to hold Dow accountable for Bhopal, and its other toxic legacies around the world.
For more information about the campaign, or for problems regarding this website, contact
Shana Ortman, the US Coordinator for the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal.
Last updated: May 1, 2008


"The year 2003 was a special year in the history of the campaign for justice in Bhopal. It was the year when student and youth supporters from at least 30 campuses in the US and India took action against Dow Chemical or in support of the demands of the Bhopal survivors. As we enter the 20th year of the unfolding Bhopal disaster, we can, with your support, convey to Dow Chemical that the fight for justice in Bhopal is getting stronger and will continue till justice is done. We look forward to your continued support and good wishes, and hope that our joint struggle will pave the way for a just world free of the abuse of corporate power."

Signed/ Rasheeda Bi, Champa Devi Shukla
Bhopal Gas Affected Women Stationery Employees Union
International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal