Conflict-free campus initiative begins
STAND President Katharine Lindquist ’14 began the Conflict Free Campus Initiative this semester to get the College administration to stop buying electronics from companies that use minerals from mines run by armed military groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
STAND is a completely student-run activist organization with about 800 chapters worldwide. The program is the student-led division of the United to End Genocide, an organization dedicated to promote community activism against international acts of genocide. According to its website, the mission of the coalition is “to empower students and communities with the tools to prevent and stop genocide... [and] to unite students around the world in a permanent anti-genocide constituency.”
The DRC has been involved in a series of conflicts amounting to the world’s deadliest war since World War II, with over six million lives lost. However, the eastern region of the DRC is one of the richest places in the world in terms of natural resources, with reserves of gold, tin, tantalum and tungsten. These minerals have become known as “conflict minerals” because they are mined in the DRC by rebel armed groups and other militant groups.
The armed groups use the profits from the mines to finance the bloody conflicts. The groups are also known to have committed mass human rights abuse in the mines, including child labor, dangerous working conditions, forced labor and the rape of women in the surrounding areas. Lindquist described it as a “circle of perpetuating conflict that gives more power to these armed civilian groups.”
The initiative is one of STAND’s current major projects. Lindquist founded STAND last spring and was first interested in the DRC as a result of some classes that she took at the College, including a JanPlan on human rights, and many classes in anthropology, including Professor of Anthropology Catherine Besteman’s Ethnographies of Africa course.
Many STAND members have been working with Lindquist on this initiative. Karen Clark ’12 is the campaign coordinator and helped Lindquist create the initiative at the College with Lindquist. Besteman, the STAND faculty adviser, has been helpful in educating other faculty members about the initiative. Grace DeNoon ’15, Megan Lasher ’15, Katie Allan ’15 and Cassie Huang ’13 have helped publicize the initiative.
Currently, the group is seeking to spread the word about the campaign to students and faculty through advocating and educating. DeNoon believes it is important for Colby students to be educated about the issue and get involved. “As the consumers of electronics, we must be part of the solution,” she said.
The group is also working to get signatures on a petition to present to President William “Bro” Adams in order to show the support that the student body has shown in this endeavor. Allan believes that it is important for the administration to take action in order to help the College continue its rise in global activism. “As an upstanding educational institution, Colby has the power to make a big difference and create real change,” she said.
As of now, there are no New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) schools that have a conflict-free campus. STAND wishes to make the College the first of this group to do so in order to inspire the other NESCAC schools and to show that one step towards global activism can make big changes.