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Council approves divestment resolution

Student Council voted unanimously Tuesday in support of a resolution stating continued support for the divestment of University stocks in Unocal, a California-based energy company conducting business in Burma.

Burma, a small country in Southeast Asia, has been ruled by a military regime whose officials are known for raping, torturing, executing and enslaving its citizens.

The resolution states that because "Unocal does not share the same values as the University of Virginia students, faculty, and administrators, [U.Va.] should not finance and profit from rape, torture, and murder and should conduct all business according to its core values."

Andrew Price, president of the University's branch of the international Free Burma Coalition, said he hopes the University will sell off its stock in Unocal because of the country's involvement in unethical practices.

Questions regarding the University's associations with Burma began circulating on Grounds last March, when Council passed a similar resolution calling on the University to divest its funds in the country.

Council members could not, however, get the resolution placed on the agenda of the Board of Visitors' April meeting. Council now is working to place the resolution on the agenda for the Board's October meeting.

"The Board decided to take no action because ... of the precedent that it would set," Board member and former U.S. Rep. Thomas J. Bliley Jr. said after the Board's June meeting. "Who knows what would come next, maybe China."

Board members do not handle investment issues themselves but rely on the University Investment Management Company to make financial decisions, Bliley said.

"We would like to urge the Board of Visitors to address the issue of divesting funds of the University of Virginia in Unocal," said College Rep. Ronnie Mayhew, who sponsored the resolution. "This new resolution should send the message that this is an important issue and something we all still strongly believe in and support."

Several Council members said they were not surprised the resolution was passed unanimously.

Across the country, universities are placing pressure on the Burmese government to reform its inhumane practices. Both houses of Congress also have offered bipartisan support for cutting economic ties with Burma.

"The abuses that occur in the country are well-documented," Price said. "We feel that the University should not be investing $2 million in stocks to a company that has directly and knowingly contributed to the regime's widespread crimes against humanity."

Engineering Rep. Travis Oakes said Council will continue focusing on the Burma issue until it is resolved.

"This is a continuing concern to us," Oakes said. "We are not going away and would like to see action taken"