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Chaos Theories: OU should stop use of conflict minerals

For a moment, transport yourself to the eastern part of the Congo, specifically to Kivu. The area surrounding you is picturesque, filled with diverse people and rich in mineral resources.

It is also filled with violence, sexual assault and the ghosts of 6 million war-related deaths since 1994.

Now go back to Athens, where people freely talk on cell phones, listen to iPods and MP3s and use their laptop computers daily. Few realize how closely related the two situations are.

The facts are as follows: Revenue from the sale of four conflict minerals — tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold — generates $183 million annually to fund the deadliest war since World War II — a war that has torn the people, families and social structure of the Congo apart for the last 17 years and threatens to do so for countless more.

These minerals are used in our electronics. Because no major electronics companies trace the source of the minerals they use in their goods, consumers’ hands are tied to avoid such products.

Fortunately, some consumers are fighting back.

Spearheaded by my roommate, Ellie Hamrick, the recent efforts of Ohio University students to persuade the university to go conflict-free have not gone unnoticed, for  they have been working tirelessly for the better part of this year to raise awareness of the war in the Congo.

Hamrick’s recently formed campus chapter of STAND against genocide and the corresponding Facebook group, Bobcats for a Conflict-free Campus, have several goals in mind:

In the short-term, they aim to convince the university’s Board of Trustees to issue a statement declaring that OU is aware of the connection between its purchased products and the war in the Congo.

In the long-term, the goal is to enact a shareholder resolution, in which the university will pledge to vote its shares of stock in favor of conflict-free actions and to persuade the Ohio Board of Regents to vote on a procurement policy pledging a preference for conflict-free products once they become available.

Support for the above policies would have vast benefits. Namely, to enact a snowball effect, causing other universities and organizations to pledge support for conflict-free products as well, thereby putting pressure on companies to trace their minerals to the source.

In October, Student Senate passed a unanimous resolution in support of this project. Since then, Hamrick and other members of STAND have been meeting with various administrators to place a statement of support on the Board of Trustees’ agenda.

Unfortunately, it has been an extremely slow process. It is doubtful whether the initiative will even make the vote in June, signifying that the complications of conflict minerals might run even deeper than expected.

Still, Hamrick has pledged that she will continue to fight for this cause no matter how stubbornly long the process might run.

In the meantime, the rest of us can join her by attending STAND meetings at 8:30 p.m. Thursdays in 145 Walter Hall, pledging our support by joining the Facebook group or simply by keeping ourselves aware of the effects and progression of the conflict-free movement.

Rarely does one person take the opportunity to enact such a radically positive change on the world, but to Hamrick, doing so is second nature. Only time will tell how far her influence will travel.

Allison Hight is a sophomore studying English and a columnist for The Post. If you want to help, email Allison at ah138208@ohiou.edu.

 

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