Faculty Senate supports creation of investment committee

Rebecca Savransky, Design Editor

Faculty Senate supported a proposal Wednesday to create an advisory committee on socially responsible investing — an issue that has spurred campus-wide debate over the last few months.

Northwestern students have been calling for the creation of an advisory committee for the past 37 years, Associated Student Government president Julia Watson told members of the Faculty Senate. She said 24 out of the 31 Consortium on Financing Higher Education Schools already have one.

The new committee would make recommendations to NU’s Board of Trustees on ethical and social issues about its investments.

“(The committee) would have access to information regarding where our investments actually lie, and they would be in a position to make recommendations,” said Senate president Stephen Eisenman. “Don’t invest in this because this will lead to disaster. Do invest in this because this will be beneficial to society at large.”

The proposal comes more than a month after ASG passed an NUDivest-sponsored resolution asking the University to divest from six corporations the resolution’s sponsors say violate Palestinians’ human rights. The resolution also called for the creation of an advisory committee on socially responsible investing.

Members of Senate were in favor of the proposal, but their support only serves as a recommendation.

“I think it’s a really strong idea to combine the efforts of faculty, alumni and undergraduates because you will have stronger voices,” said political science Prof. Rachel Riedl.

Riedl said the trustees need to be educated about their role in investing. She said the investment committee sees its role as investing in the endowment to gain a return, but it doesn’t have any guidelines that tell the committee whether its investments need to be socially and environmentally responsible.

“So that’s not their purpose unless we tell the trustees that it is their role to tell the investment committee if there are any parameters on that investment,” Riedl said. “I think there’s an absolutely critical role that this body can play.”

Watson recommended following the example of Columbia University, which added its investment committee in March 2000. Columbia’s committee includes students, alumni and faculty. It sets out an agenda about socially responsible investing and makes recommendations to trustees about the University’s investments, Watson said.

“I found out Columbia had the highest ranked model in actually promoting socially responsible investing,” she said.

Waston said this model is transparent, most effective and holds accountable socially responsible investing.

She said the time is right to pass this proposal now, after nearly 40 years of activism, adding that no one has questioned its moral aspects.

Senate members also passed the bottled water-free initiative, which urges NU to stop selling bottled water by April 2016 to reduce its environmental impact. The legislation also recommends all drinking fountains be replaced with water bottle refilling stations — a recommendation that brought questions about cost and feasibility.

The legislation says more than 1,000 students have signed the petition urging the University to go bottled water-free and named Washington University in St. Louis a model example after the Missouri school changed its contract with Coca-Cola to exclude bottled water.

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