A butterfly has no choice but to flap its wings, whatever the ripple effect and whatever the ensuing chaos. But as consumers of electronic products we do have a choice to demand that electronic companies ensure that they are not using conflict minerals from eastern Congo. At Westminster College, we are taught to be leaders in a global community. As such, we believed it was imperative to take action and begin the effort to make our campus free of the conflict minerals that are helping fuel the daily mass atrocities and rapes committed against men, women, and children in eastern Congo.
After spending a summer interning at Enough, I decided to bring the conflict-free movement to my college. Together with the student government president Mike Butera, I reached out to our college president and requested he meet with us to discuss the conflict in eastern Congo and what we can do as a campus to stop it. President George Forsythe gladly accepted our invitation and met with us immediately at the beginning of the fall semester. We submitted the campus conflict-free resolution to him, which he agreed to send to the next cabinet meeting for deliberation. Mike and I quickly co-authored a letter to the college cabinet that was signed by student leaders from some of the clubs and societies on campus, urging for support of the resolution. After the cabinet meeting, President George Forsythe sent us an edited form of the resolution that did not include all the objectives we were hoping to achieve with the resolution. The administration removed the language on investments but agreed to make a “best effort commitment to favor verifiably conflict-free products.”
On September 21, Mike and I joined President George Forsythe during the opening session of the Symposium on Democracy to announce to the Westminster campus that as a school we will now make a concerted effort to become conflict-free. This public statement of support was an important feat for us but we also know that the work has only begun.
We also plan to spread the word to Westminster students that there are steps that each of us as individuals can take to urge electronics companies to make certifiably conflict-free products. We want to demonstrate to electronics companies that even beyond the moral justification for offering conflict-free products, there is a strong and growing demand among consumers.
We encourage more colleges to take up the fight by pledging to go conflict-free. Together we can transform the deadliest conflict since World War II into an advocacy victory of our generation.
Gregory Rockson is a junior at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, where he is the co-chair of the Westminster Congo Campaign. Greg interned with Enough’s Darfur Dream Team Sister Schools program in the summer of 2010.