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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

“Killer, Killer, Caterpillar: Will UA continue to support criminal companies? “

The deepening scandal on campus regarding the UA’s illegal business contract with the Caterpillar Corporation continues. Caterpillar’s ghastly activities are going on right now, 7,500 miles away, with the increasing knowledge and understanding of the UA administration.

Let’s start at the beginning. As a member of the student-monitoring group heading the investigation, I’ll attempt to provide a possibly unique, in-depth perspective into the matter.

According to public records released from the UA Media Office in April 2009, in 2004 the UA entered into a licensing agreement with Caterpillar, under provisions of company software items provided to the College of Engineering “”at no cost.””

Ironically, 2004 is the year during which global outcry against the company, led by the world’s most prominent human rights organizations, dramatically increased. Among the concerned groups, the United Nations wrote to Caterpillar, which it has done more than once, pleading with the company to recognize and respond to the horrendous use of its products by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territories that include massive home demolitions, property destruction, crop devastation and unlawful killings of Palestinian civilians — as well as the death of American college student Rachel Corrie, who was crushed by a Caterpillar bulldozer during peacekeeping activities in the Gaza Strip in March 2003. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have also written letters urging the company to respect not only international law but Caterpillar’s own internal code of conduct.

Such credible pleas seem to consistently have fallen on deaf ears.

So, as a next resort, groups and individuals around the world have begun to call for financial divestment from Caterpillar until the company complies with international law.

Nancy Myers, a Tucson resident and Caterpillar shareholder, is one such person. In a phone interview Wednesday afternoon, I asked Myers why she was calling for divestment from her own company, to which she replied: “”Well, I work for issues of justice and I feel what (my company) is doing is perpetrating a crime. And that’s one of the reasons I held onto my Caterpillar stock rather than selling it. I wanted to make a statement rather than say, ‘Oh, well, there’s nothing I can do’ … because I happened to have some stock, then I could say, ‘here’s something that I can do to make (Caterpillar’s activities) more public.'””

Beginning in October 2009, the student-led University Community for Human Rights began to approach the College of Engineering to make known the campus investigation into the company, provide information on Caterpillar, discuss alternatives with the college and make recommendations.

In an e-mail sent last Thursday, College of Engineering Dean Jeff Goldberg wrote, “”Funny, but nobody here had any idea of what Caterpillar is accused of doing … Something tells me that we would not be where we are right now (if the college) had known.””

But as the contract remains intact on campus — and the college’s knowledge of Caterpillar’s activities grows — the range of criticism is persists.

College of Engineering alumnus Craig Metcho is the UA’s ideal student success story. After graduating from the UA in December 2007, Metcho was hired right out of school by the local branch of an international technology firm based in Connecticut. He is also a member of the Southern Arizona Professional Chapter of Engineers Without Borders.

In response to the College of Engineering’s business association with Caterpillar, he expressed less-than-fond words for the current administration: “”The idea that my former college is receiving educational aid from a company that profits on human suffering in Palestine is appalling. And I would hope that the college undertakes a responsible leadership and terminates the contract until the company abides by decent human rights standards.””

In two letters dated Jan. 24, addressed to President Robert Shelton and Dean Goldberg, Metcho cites the UA’s “”Policy on Corporate Relations,”” which states that the UA “”should never endorse products or corporations whose products are instruments of destruction or are known to cause harm to humans.””

It’s quite clear the administration now knows about Caterpillar’s “”instruments of destruction”” which the UA has sadly been endorsing for six long, destructive years. The choice of whether or not the administration will decide to follow their own principles remains up to them. Meanwhile, many concerned voices — student and community alike — await the administration’s next response and watch diligently for their next move.

—Gabriel Matthew Schivone is a junior majoring in art, literature and media studies. This article is dedicated to the beloved memory of the compassionate and fiercely decent life of Howard Zinn (1922-2010), whose spirit of resistance to injustice continues to demonstrate that a better world is possible. Schivone can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu

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