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Students Protest Shell Oil

By Ariel R. Frank

About 10 Harvard students protested Shell International's actions in Nigeria at the multinational oil company's recruiting session last night at the Faculty Club.

The students took issue with the company's alleged involvement in the execution of environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, the importation of weapons for the Nigerian police and environmental violations.

Some criticized the recruiters for inconsistencies in their answers, while others questioned their morals.

"Shell's role in environmental devastation and involvement in the political scene in Nigeria seem to conflict with what you're saying," one student said during the question and answer session.

The recruiters, while emphasizing that they did not have any direct knowledge of the allegations, said, generally, there is no simple way to define at what point a company should stop operating in a country.

"Shell is a business, but we still have to cut deals with governments," said David J. Watson, commercial recruitment manager for Shell International. "Just saying 'we'd withdraw' is not such a simple option."

On the issue of weapons importation, the recruiters acknowledged Shell supplied guns to the Nigerian police 20 years ago in order to protect the company's employees from criminals but said they had no knowledge of any recent shipments.

They also addressed the students' environmental concerns by saying that although Shell does not believe fossil fuels are going to run out in the near future, it constantly researches alternatives.

Students who staged the protest said they hoped their actions would produce results on a variety of fronts.

"[One of my goals was to] make any Harvard students who are interested in working for Shell think twice about working for a company whose hands are so bloody in so many ways," said Noah R. Freeman '98, a member of the Nigeria Action Committee. He added that he also hoped to register his complaints with the company, through its recruiters, and with Harvard, as a Shell investor.

Freeman is also co-author of the Undergraduate Council's resolution protesting Harvard's investment in Shell and Shell's involvement with the execution of Saro-Wiwa.

Hafsat O. Abiola '96, a member of the Committee on Nigeria, said she believed the protest was successful in forcing the recruiters to address important concerns.

"What happened tonight was important because we needed to get them to talk about [Shell's] responsibility in [Nigeria]," she said. "We have to repeat it on campuses across the country."

Students added they hope their message will personally impact the recruiters.

"We would hope that employees of Shell would question their own company's role in developing countries, especially Nigeria," said Marco B. Simons '97, the other co-author of the council's resolution on Shell.

Although the recruiters said the question-and-answer session was different from any other they had done, they said they believed the students' questions were legitimate.

"It's quite reasonable for them to ask the questions," Watson said. "We have a quite genuine concern as well.

The recruiters, while emphasizing that they did not have any direct knowledge of the allegations, said, generally, there is no simple way to define at what point a company should stop operating in a country.

"Shell is a business, but we still have to cut deals with governments," said David J. Watson, commercial recruitment manager for Shell International. "Just saying 'we'd withdraw' is not such a simple option."

On the issue of weapons importation, the recruiters acknowledged Shell supplied guns to the Nigerian police 20 years ago in order to protect the company's employees from criminals but said they had no knowledge of any recent shipments.

They also addressed the students' environmental concerns by saying that although Shell does not believe fossil fuels are going to run out in the near future, it constantly researches alternatives.

Students who staged the protest said they hoped their actions would produce results on a variety of fronts.

"[One of my goals was to] make any Harvard students who are interested in working for Shell think twice about working for a company whose hands are so bloody in so many ways," said Noah R. Freeman '98, a member of the Nigeria Action Committee. He added that he also hoped to register his complaints with the company, through its recruiters, and with Harvard, as a Shell investor.

Freeman is also co-author of the Undergraduate Council's resolution protesting Harvard's investment in Shell and Shell's involvement with the execution of Saro-Wiwa.

Hafsat O. Abiola '96, a member of the Committee on Nigeria, said she believed the protest was successful in forcing the recruiters to address important concerns.

"What happened tonight was important because we needed to get them to talk about [Shell's] responsibility in [Nigeria]," she said. "We have to repeat it on campuses across the country."

Students added they hope their message will personally impact the recruiters.

"We would hope that employees of Shell would question their own company's role in developing countries, especially Nigeria," said Marco B. Simons '97, the other co-author of the council's resolution on Shell.

Although the recruiters said the question-and-answer session was different from any other they had done, they said they believed the students' questions were legitimate.

"It's quite reasonable for them to ask the questions," Watson said. "We have a quite genuine concern as well.

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