Letter Delivered to President Lee Bollinger and Read in his Office

Students deliver a letter to President Lee Bollinger expressing concerns regarding their university’s major investments in leading private prison companies in the United States and abroad, and call for divestment.

Around 10:43am (On Monday, February 3rd, 2014), Columbia and Barnard students from a diverse array of backgrounds came together due to their grave concerns regarding the investment practices of Columbia University in relation to the private prison industry. After becoming aware that as of June 2013, in the 10% of its budget that is made public, Columbia owned 230,432 shares, worth a market value of roughly $8 million, in Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest private prison company in the United States, and was also invested in G4S, a British multinational security services company that provides security systems for detention and interrogation facilities, checkpoints and high-security prisons globally, these students felt deeply troubled by their university profiting from a growing prison system. Wishing to hold their university accountable to its commitment against discrimination, they visited the President’s office hoping to discuss how these kinds of investments were affecting their own communities, which are communities of color, LGBTQ, international and working class communities, disproportionately represented in prisons. As President Bollinger was not in his office, the students trusted Deputy Chief of Staff Carrie Walker with a message to be delivered to President Bollinger upon his return.  

Their call to action included the following:

1. We want Columbia to immediately divest all shares from CCA and G4S, and provide a public statement confirming its divestment from these corporations. We want Columbia to adopt a permanent negative screen for CCA, G4S, and the GEO Group (the second largest private prison company in the U.S.) to confirm that Columbia will not invest in these companies in the future.

2. We want Columbia’s fund managers to reach out to each of the following companies in which the university is invested insisting that they divest from CCA and the GEO Group. We want proof of this being completed. These 36 companies each own over one million shares of and collectively over two thirds of CCA and the GEO Group :  

American Century Companies Inc., Ameriprise Financial Inc., Balestra Capital LTD., Bank of America Corp., Bank Of New York Mellon Corp., Barclays Global Investors, Blackrock Fund Advisors, Carlson Capital LP, Cramer Rosenthal McGlynn LLC, Dimensional Fund Advisors LP, Eagle Asset Management Inc., Epoch Investment Partners Inc., FMR LLC, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Hamlin Capital Management, LLC, ING Investment Management LLC & Co., Invesco LTD., Jennison Associates LLC, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Keeley Asset Management Corp., Lazard Management LLC, London Co. Of Virginia, Makaira Partners LLC, Managed Account Advisors LLC, Morgan Stanley, Neuberger Berman Group LLC, New South Capital Management INC, Northern Trust Corp, Principal Financial Group Inc, Renaissance Technologies LLC, River Road Asset Management LLC, Scopia Capital Management LLC, State Street Corp, Suntrust Banks INC, Vanguard Group INC, Wells Fargo & Company

3. We want more transparency regarding Columbia’s investments. We are now only able to access information on 10% of Columbia’s investments, but we believe that as members of the Columbia community we should be made aware of the remaining 90%.”

The students have asked the President to respond to the letter by Friday, Feb 7th. Images of the letter can be seen below. 

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