Undergraduates Want Proof That UConn Foundation’s Not Invested in Private Prisons

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April 20, 2016; Daily Campus (University of Connecticut)

NPQ has written before about the movement to end university investments in the private prison industry. Now, the UConn Undergraduate Student Government is asking the UConn Foundation, which manages a $383 million endowment, to submit a statement showing any holdings it might have in private prisons.

“The corporations profiting from private prisons have a financial incentive to promote the political and economic agendas of mass incarceration,” commuter student senator Haddiyyah Ali wrote in a statement of position, wherein it was also asserted that private prisons violate universal human rights, particularly those to “life, liberty, security of person, privacy, family, home, ownership of property and to not be arbitrarily deprived of property.”

Last year at this time, Columbia University became the first university in the country to divest from private prisons, followed by Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., and the University of California divested themselves of $25 million of investments in private prison corporations following protests from their Black Student Unions.

As NPQ readers may remember, philanthropic institutions have also felt pressure to divest from this industry. Last year, the California Endowment announced that it was divesting from companies “that derive significant annual revenue from the operation of private prisons, jails, detention centers and correctional facilities.”

As Rick Cohen wrote in 2014, “Divestment…is a pro-values strategy. But it demands that the institutions of our society that purport to be mission- and value-driven, such as private foundations, cannot stand on the sidelines with their billions in tax exempt assets and assume that their five percent devoted to philanthropic output automatically outweighs and camouflages the impacts of the investment of their 95 percent.”—Ruth McCambridge