The right human rights?

Grand Valley State University debates whether to renew its purchasing card (P-card) contract with J.P. Morgan, and after a group of honors students discovered some of the bank’s investments are linked to genocide, it’s time for a change.

Some of the mutual funds offered by J.P. Morgan invest in PetroChina, a large oil provider that has been tied to the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan. Although PetroChina does not operate directly in Sudan, it is a publicly-traded subsidiary of the government-owned China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) that refines Sudanese oil. According to the Sudan Divestment Task Force, 70 to 80 percent of oil profits fund the Sudanese army.

The conflict in Sudan began when the Sudanese government turned its armies against tribes in the Darfur region in 2003 and has claimed the lives of more than 300,000 people, according to UN estimates. The conflict was declared a genocide by the U.S. Congress in 2004. As of 2007, the CNPC owned a 88 percent stake in PetroChina. J.P. Morgan is one of the largest publicly-traded investors. As the news of PetroChina’s involvement with the genocide in Sudan has spread, there have been divestment actions by 30 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and 61 colleges and universities.

It is time for GVSU to make the same statement by divesting in J.P. Morgan and finding a new P-card provider.

While GVSU’s investments in J.P. Morgan do not fund PetroChina, knowingly investing in a company with morally unsound business practices makes the statement that those practices are acceptable. Divesting in J.P. Morgan could encourage other investors to follow suit. Pulling GVSU’s funds puts financial pressure on J.P. Morgan to cut its ties with PetroChina. Revenue streams from PetroChina and its parent company CNPC are funding a bloody and ceaseless war that has killed thousands, uprooted millions and will continue to wreak havoc on Sudan until pressure from the rest of the world cuts down Sudan’s military funds and forces a resolution.

If the university discovers that alternate P-card providers are not funding humanitarian crises, GVSU should make the switch.

Changing providers may be a costly process, but when saving a few dollars becomes more important than saving a few lives, that’s a problem.

It’s time for GVSU to take a “grand” stand and begin divestment actions.