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Brandeis U Goes 'Conflict-Free' with Computer Buying

Massachusetts-based Brandeis University is the 19th institution worldwide to sign on to ensure that the computers and electronic equipment the university buys have no connection to the mining sector of conflict-ridden areas, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

This policy was adopted after three years of effort on the part of Enough Project, which runs the "Conflict-Free Campus Initiative." Schools that adhere to the program agree to avoid purchasing electronics from companies that use "conflict" minerals, including tantalum, tin, tungsten and gold. Much of the money generated through the smuggling and sale of those minerals is invested in supporting wars that have been going on in eastern Congo since the early 1990s, killing millions of people.

According to Enough Project, the decision will affect about $4 million annually that the university spends on computers and other products that come under the "conflict-free" policy. The new policy states that Braindeis "will ask the suppliers of our most commonly purchased and leased electronic items (desktop and laptop computers, printers, scanners and copiers) to share with us the annual reports required by the SEC, showing due diligence in auditing the sources and provenance of potential conflict minerals in their supply chain." Many large vendors already post such reports and statements on their sites, including Apple, Cisco, Dell and HP, among others.

"From the beginning, a special characteristic of Brandeis students has been how profoundly they care about people around the world and taking action to address problems. Today, I am extremely proud of our students and their initiative to address the human tragedies caused by conflict minerals," said Lisa Lynch, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. "After advocacy by our students who are involved with the Enough Project, our policy committee agreed that the Conflict-Free Campus Initiative is consistent with Brandeis' ... commitment to social justice and voted unanimously to make Brandeis a Conflict-Free Campus. We will use the new policy to hold our suppliers and vendors accountable to these standards."

Enough Project campus organizer Gina Gkoulgkountina, who graduated from Brandeis in December, worked with the library, technology services, procurement and administration staff to develop the policy that was eventually adopted. "I am proud to see Brandeis joining the growing community of schools actively supporting peace in Congo," she said in a prepared statement. "I am confident Brandeis will implement this critical policy in a thorough, responsible manner."

Other U.S.-based institutions that have passed similar resolutions in the last two years include California Polytechnic State University, American University and Eastern Mennonite University.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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