Monday Memo, 16 October 2017
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In your inbox a little later than usual, here's this week's Monday Memo.

"Chinese students might not go back to Beijing saying, ‘We want this gridlock, partisan warfare, and inability to pass laws.’"

In case you missed the Freeman Spogli Institute's panel this weekend on The State of Democracy, at Home and Abroad, read our events team's coverage of it here.

A year out from when the infamous "grab 'em by the pussy" tape was made public, Beyond the Beltway columnist Ben Sorensen reflects on Trump's ability to influence the media (here).

The New Divestment Debate: Private Prisons

The Board of Trustees is definitely not new to rejecting divestment petitions from student activists.

They did promise in 2014 (here) not to make direct investments of endowment funds in coal-mining companies after significant pressure from Fossil Free Stanford, but here is their 2016 statement regarding other fossil fuels, and here is their 2015 statement regarding investments in corporations involved in the Israel-Palestine conflict.

In Sept. 2016, student group SU Prison Divest submitted a new proposal to Stanford's Board of Trustees:
We request that the Trustees investigate and act on the University's investments, divesting from private prison corporations and engaging its shareholder rights to better the practices of private prison corporation stakeholdhers, prison support industries, and prison labor beneficiaries.

The proposal (here) also included a very detailed rationale for why private prisons are, well, bad.

Last week (over a year later), the Board responded to SU Prison Divest with a letter (here) and a press release (here), summarizing their review:
In brief, Stanford does not hold any direct investments in the two private prison operators in the request. We, and the APIRL, also reviewed several other categories of companies associated with the private prison industry, as SU Prison Divest requested. The Board concluded that these other companies do not meet the threshold for consideration of Board action under our policies, in many cases because it has not been substantiated that they are directly causing social injury.

SU Prison Divest responded by dropping a banner at the football game on Saturday and releasing a press release (here) about it:
While the Board of Trustees acknowledged that Stanford maintains no direct holdings in private prison corporations, imprisonment and incarceration are the responsibility of not only corporations managing private facilities, but of a wide network of investors, companies, and supporters. With this decision, Stanford’s Board of Trustees has maintained Stanford’s complicity in this system of violence and oppression.

The specific issue of private prison divestment is sure to persist throughout the year with SU Prison Divest showing no sign of letting up. Look out for their op-ed in Stanford Politics later this week.

But more broadly, the Board of Trustees has announced that they are going to conduct a full review of the University's Statement on Investment Responsibility, a two-page document (here) that has guided the Advisory Panel on Investment Responsibility and Licensing (APIRL) on divestment deliberations since 1971.

It's unclear how meaningful the review will be, but they will at least be soliciting input from the community at large. Information on the process to provide input will be available here by Nov. 15.

And In Case You Missed It...

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