Editor’s Note: Guest bloggers Rachel Gore and Emma Craig, members of the STAND chapter at Clark University, recently marked a major victory in their Congo advocacy efforts and wrote this post to explain how they pulled it off.
On the wave of the conflict-free movement that has seen eight universities issue conflict-free statements, Clark University has taken its commitment to the next level. The university announced last month an addition to its standard purchasing policy that includes conflict-free progress as a key criterion when purchasing electronics products.
Clark University President David Angel made the announcement during the Informed Activism Summit, an international conference hosted by Clark’s Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies in September that brought together NGO representatives, scholars, and over 500 students from around the world to discuss the economic drivers of the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. President David Angel’s announcement was the culmination of a year-long initiative pioneered in the fall of 2010 by Clark’s STAND chapter.
When we first started the Conflict-Free Campus Initiative at Clark, we had no idea what reaction to expect from the student body and administration. Our group started by raising awareness through screening a documentary, making brief class presentations, and distributing a petition. Once we had the support of students, faculty, and student organizations, we brought the petition to Student Council to seek its recommendation. With Student Council’s support behind us, we met with President Angel to introduce our resolution and were pleasantly surprised by his encouragement to pursue our mission. But that was just the beginning…
Next, we met with some members of the university’s Social Responsibility Committee of the Board of Trustees to determine whether our initiative raised any concerns with the administration or the board. After our meeting, there was nothing left to do but wait. This was frustrating after we had built up so much momentum, but during this waiting period we attended the Conflict-Free Campus Conference at Stanford University. It was inspiring to meet and share ideas with other students from across the country working for the same cause. After the conference, we returned to Clark reenergized and ready to ramp up efforts on the campaign.
By the end of last spring semester, the board returned the resolution to the administration, and we met with President Angel again, as well as the university business manager and representatives from Information Technology Services, to work out the practical details of amending the school’s purchasing policy. Over the summer, our STAND chapter finalized our website on Clark’s policy and official statement in preparation for the announcement at the conference.
As we now look back to reflect on the campaign, it is exciting to see that our hard work paid off and that Clark University is not only committed to sending an important message to electronics companies—that there is a market for conflict-free products—but has taken it a step further to update its official purchasing policy. Although this is only a small step in eradicating the link between the use of conflict minerals in the United States and violence in Congo, it shows that students can truly impact the decisions of their schools and raise awareness about the unintended consequences that our decisions can have in the world.
Emma Craig and Rachel Gore are juniors at Clark University in Worcester, MA, and are on the Executive Board of Clark’s STAND Chapter. Emma is majoring in international development and social change and Rachel is a biology major.