Divesting movements have always been a pointed and effective mode of resistance in activism. Success in the past has been seen in the activism of the anti-apartheid movement and the struggle against strip mining and mountain-top removal practices of the coal industry. More recently, in the summer of 2015, a student-led movement at Columbia University pushed the institution to becoming the first university to divest from private prisons.
Currently, a movement under the moniker #DefundDAPL has made some striking victories. Earlier this month, the city of Seattle unanimously voted to pull its astonishing $3 billion in accounts out of Wells Fargo, one of the key funders of Energy Transfer, part of the umbrella companies constructing the Dakota Access Pipeline.
However, divestment movements are only successful when multitudes of individuals, organizations, and cities join in the fiscally punitive measures. This is why the Daily Iowan Editorial Board is formally calling for the University of Iowa to remove any and all funds from U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo, which, according to a records request made to the Office of Transparency by student activist Kristen Rankin, the university is fiscally involved with.
The issues that create such controversy around the Dakota Access Pipeline are not new, yet have maintained prominence in headlines, because they are important. The UI needs to take an active stance against environmental destruction such as fracking and the violation of the human rights of the Standing Rock Sioux. The UI also must reaffirm its commitment to empathy, civility, and the environment.
There is an irony involved with the UI’s investment in U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo: Former UI President Thomas Macbride is remembered as both a botanist and a conservationist as much as he is as a former university president. He has left his legacy in the names of both Lake Macbride and Macbride Hall, but most importantly as a trailblazer for an environmentally inclined university administration.
The UI claims to hold these seven values at our core: “excellence, learning, community, diversity, integrity, respect, and responsibility.” Each of these values are in contention with the values the UI practices, should we continue to leave money in the hands that are building the Dakota Access Pipeline. Each day the university remains invested in U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo is a blemish on our reputation and a mark on Macbride’s legacy. UI President Bruce Harreld must take a stand and actively represent the values an institution of higher education such as the UI holds. It is time to take responsibility. The university cannot claim to be a liberal-arts school devoted to fostering diversity when it continues to fund forms of oppression.