RESPONSIBLE ENDOWMENTS COALITION www.endowmentethics.org


Why do you organize?

We are all leaders, say the farmworkers, the indigenous, the students.  We are all students too.  The other day my friend Penny came to visit me in Brooklyn.  She taught me something that she says I taught her while we organized together in college.  “To be an ally you have to organize strategically,” explained Penny.  This is why I am part of the movement to make universities more democratic.


I grew up outside of Miami, in the swamplands-turned-suburbs.  My father never knew how to be a parent.  He worked a lot and stayed out late, lost and also searching for something.  When I left to college though, my father and I drove the eighteen hours to the University of Pennsylvania.  He decided to tell me the story of his youth: his story of crossing the United States-Mexico border and working in the fields.  He cried.


At Penn I joined a Xicanx student organization, and met people with family stories like mine.  At first we did charity projects that just served as band-aids to problems.  When we met farmworkers who were organizing to take power and change the fast food industry, we decided to organize as their allies.  The farmworkers led the campaigns because they understood their situation better than we could.  Yet, we students were part of the struggle too because the same fast food restaurants that were keeping down the price of produce, were also exploiting young consumers.  So we organized with farmworkers…and won, one campaign after another!


Then some of us started organizing around our university’s endowment.  The University of Pennsylvania was invested $15 million in the hotel-management company HEI Hotels & Resorts, a company accused of serious labor rights violations.  HEI workers were organizing and invited us to organize with them.  After our first round of meetings with the administration though, we realized students were excluded from decision-making at Penn.  We were disappointed and felt powerless.  For the next three years my student activist group organized – building a coalition of 30 student groups (including six large coalitions), petitioning, holding rallies, and having wait-ins – urging Penn not reinvest in HEI.  During the spring of my senior year, we negotiated a public statement of non-reinvestment with Penn’s Executive Vice President of Finance.  Friends at Harvard, Brown, Yale, Princeton, Cornell, Vanderbilt, and Notre Dame also organized.  HEI workers won better treatment from their employers.  As students, we had also taken power within our university, making our university more democratic.


My organizing is also a way that I heal my relationship with my father.  We talk about systems of oppression.  He comes to actions with me.  Standing under the sun all day alongside protesting farmworkers, my father feels proud.  He is actualized, in a way far beyond the satisfaction he gets from his daily work and consumption.  We are taking power.


You can take power with us.  Students across the country are calling on universities to Move Our Money, with the goal of moving 2% of the endowment – and a significant portion of the operating budget – into Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs, or local banks and credit unions).  Investing directly into CDFIs, instead of universities running their own "community investment" programs, avoids problems such as gentrification, because community members own and have a say in the way money is spent from their community financial institutions.


We’ve already had a number of victories, including UChicago students getting $1 million invested in CDFIs, and several hundred thousand dollars at a handful of other schools.  Students are still working to move more money though.


Immigrant and people of color communities dealing with the prison industrial complex, poor and middle class folks dealing with the housing crisis, and frontline communities dealing with environmental catastrophe have called for divestment from bad banks.  They are also calling for another economic model --- and community investment, which creates affordable housing, living wage jobs, and green technology, is part of that.  As allies we must organize strategically, in a way that honors the voices of folks most directly exploited by bad banks, and their need for real improvements in their lives.  Thus, we continue organizing for our universities to Move Our Money from bad banks to good banks.


Yet, we are all part of this.  Bad banks are luring young people into credit cards with high interest rates and profiting off of student debt.  In organizing for our universities to Move Our Money, students are demanding an economy that guarantees young people a future.  By changing the endowment model of investing, we change the world by reshaping how investors invest.  We are all leaders.  You are a leader.  Join the campaign to Move Our Money.



You can email me at rose@endowmentethics.org to find out how you can get involved.
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Oberlin Votes to Invest in Local Community

Oberlin, OH–Today, Oberlin College took an important step towards connecting money and morality by investing in the local community. The Board of Trustees just approved the Oberlin College and Community Investment Plan, a resolution to invest part of the Student Activity Fund every year in certificates of deposit (CDs) with the Ohio Educational Credit Union (OHECU). According to Ron Watts, Oberlin’s Vice President for Finance, a few hundred thousand dollars a year will go into this fund reserved for large capital purchases by student organizations, such as a new radio tower for WOBC or new computers for the Review.

Since OHECU is a local credit union, money invested in these CDs will be lent out to local businesses and individuals at better rates than at most for-profit banks. As non-profit, democratically controlled financial institutions, credit unions exist to serve their customer-members, and they offer an alternative to the big banks whose unscrupulous lending practices created the 2008 financial crisis. Credit unions invest their money the local community, as opposed to the big banks that invest in Wall Street companies who continue to make outrageous profits at the expense of homeowners, small businesses, and the environment.

The Student Finance Committee and the Responsible Investing Organization (RIO), a student group that advocates for Oberlin College to bank and invest more responsibly, proposed this resolution to Ron Watts. In addition to lobbying for local investment of College money, this fall RIO launched its “Breakup With Your Bank” campaign, an ongoing initiative to educate Oberlin students about financial institutions and encourage them to switch from big banks to local credit unions like OHECU and Lormet Community Credit Union. RIO is part of a broader national movement towards responsible investment of college and university endowments, particularly focused on divestment from fossil fuels.

As a policy accomplishment of the Student Finance Committee and RIO’s first major victory, this resolution is a step towards building dialogue with Oberlin’s Board of Trustees and Administration about the responsible investment of Oberlin’s endowment, which, as of 2011, was $690,000,000.

Update [12/15/2012]: Oberlin College has released an official statement.


***

For more information contact:

Responsible Investing Organization

David Tisel ‘13            Dtisel@oberlin.edu                   651.431.0306

David Roswell ‘13      Droswell@oberlin.edu               410.952.2258

Student Finance Committee

James Foust    ‘13       Jfoust@oberlin.edu                  608.212.9296
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Our movement is growing. Can you join us?

Cross-posted from a letter sent out by Will Lawrence and Hannah Jones, Swarthmore activists of Swarthmore Mountain Justice.

We’re on the front page of the New York Times business section today, after 2 years of hard work. This is our story about how we started out fighting mountaintop removal, and ended up catalyzing the biggest student movement in years, fighting for fossil fuel divestment.

In June of 2011, a group of us from Swarthmore Mountain Justice marched 50 miles from Marmet, West Virginia to Blair Mountain with 300 other activists, in support of West Virginian folks committed to ending mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining and the destruction of their communities.

Most of us originally learned about mountaintop removal by traveling to West Virginia and witnessing its devastation first-hand. We saw beautiful landscapes transformed into moonscapes and wastelands where even grass can barely grow. We saw streams and tap water running red with pollutants from mountaintop removal.



Myself, Hannah, and other students from Swarthmore in front of an MTR site in West Virgina.

 

 

 

 

We saw mile after mile of coal trains taking their profits with them out of the region. Most importantly, we saw courageous activists resisting the destruction of their homes and communities. 

These trips prompted us to consider what we, students living in Swarthmore, PA, could do from so far away. We quickly turned to our endowment as a source of political and financial power. We realized that the most effective way for us to support the struggle against MTR was to call on Swarthmore College to publicly divest from these companies.

Ever since we started our campaign two years ago, the Responsible Endowments Coalition has made our campaign possible. We are writing to ask you to support them.

Yes, I can donate $10 to support this campaign.

They have done trainings, provided us with research, connected us with investment professionals, published our editorials, and have helped support fossil fuel divestment on a national level. Even while we were the only college running a fossil fuel divestment campaign, they made it clear that we were not alone.

Thanks in large part to REC’s support, the movement has since grown immensely.

We have been able to put the time and energy necessary to truly partner with organizations that are on the frontlines of fossil fuel extraction. Andrew Munn, an anti-mountaintop removal organizer in West Virginia,  said “we’ve been thrilled to work with students at Swarthmore to communicate the struggles of those in the coalfields around the country.”

The support we have received from the Responsible Endowments Coalition has made it possible for us to lead this campaign and make it onto the front page of the New York Times.

Your support will help REC continue to work with student campaigns from the ground-up, fostering this sustainable and powerful student movement.

REC needs your support. Can you join us with a gift of $10 today?  Every donation up to $5,000 will be matched 1:1.

Sincerely,

Will Lawrence & Hannah Jones
Swarthmore Mountain Justice


 
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Swarthmore Endowment Campaign on the Front of the New York Times


The article in The New York Times tells the story of students, faculty and alumni around the country who are demanding divestment from fossil fuels. At Swarthmore, students from Mountain Justice have been at it for semesters -- but all of a sudden, as the article says, they find themselves “at the vanguard of a national movement. In recent weeks, college students on dozens of campuses have demanded that university endowment funds rid themselves of coal, oil and gas stocks. The students see it as a tactic that could force climate change, barely discussed in the presidential campaign, back onto the national political agenda.” A student movement is talking about their endowments and their investments. Can you do it to?

This article is the boost this movement needs. So please, go read it here: www.nyti.ms/SESrfr

Can you share the article on Facebook and Twitter and use the Times website to email all of your friends and talk about the need for responsible investing?

After you've emailed the article, start thinking about ways you can join in. If you're a student, you can join in on campus. If you're an alum, you can help pressure your alma mater. For help, email us at organize@endowmentethics.org.
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The Rise and Redemption of [The New School] ACIR

reposted from The New School Free Press

Rey Mashayekhi


Roughly a dozen people attended an ACIR-led town hall discussion at Wollman Hall in October 2010. (Photo courtesy of NSFP Archives)For much of its existence, The New School’s Advisory Committee on Investment Responsibility has fought for relevance within the university. Now, three years into its mission, recent activity — including a correspondence with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission — has seen the ACIR intent on emerging as a key organizational force at The New School and beyond.

The ACIR’s journey began when dozens of students gathered outside of Arnhold Hall on December 10, 2008, to protest New School trustee Robert Millard’s association with defense contractor L-3 Communications. Millard’s position on L-3’s board of directors left students and faculty concerned about The New School’s ties to a company whose activities appeared to go against the very fabric of the university’s values. One week later, many of those same students staged an occupation at The New School’s 65 Fifth Ave. building. Besides demanding that then-President Bob Kerrey and then-Vice President James Murtha step down, their conditions also called for Millard’s removal from L-3’s board.

Kerrey, Murtha and Millard all survived the controversy at the time. But 11 months after the occupation, the university established the Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility. The ACIR consists of students, faculty, staff and trustees who review The New School’s endowment investment policies, which are managed by the board of trustees’ investment committee, and advise the board on investment practices that account for environmental, social and governance factors — in essence, “responsible” investment.

The ACIR got off to a rough start; at an open house presentation at Wollman Hall in October 2010, where students were invited to speak with Kerrey and other administrators about the committee, less than a dozen people showed. The outrage that had led students to occupy a university building and call for Millard’s removal had seemingly died down, and with it the momentum necessary to implement change at the highest levels of the university.

“There’s always a ton of support to talk about transparency and accountability and fiscal responsibility [at The New School],” said ACIR member Chris Crews, a Ph.D student at The New School for Social Research. “It makes for an easy talking point or a bullet on the negotiating list of demands you want. But when it comes to sitting through two-hour long meetings every month and reviewing pages and pages of financial records, most students don’t care.”

Now, four years after that first student occupation at 65 Fifth Ave., the ACIR appears to have turned a corner. Last year, the committee succeeded in getting the trustees to pass a number of proxy voting guidelines that encourage The New School’s investments to stay consistent with its values in areas such as climate change, labor standards and animal testing.

Read More on The New School Free Press website.

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Time For Colleges To Support Political Contributions Disclosure

In the linked article in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Terra Lawson-Remer from The New School and Dan Apfel, REC's Executive Director make the case that it is time for colleges and universities to demand that companies disclose how they are spending money in politics

Put Your Endowment Money Where Your Mission Is

Want your school to support political contributions disclosure? We can help. We'll be having a call after Thanksgiving to talk about how you can do this too. Click here to get involved. 
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Can you support the effort for political contributions disclosure?

On Monday, October 8, The New School’s Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility (ACIR) submitted a letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) calling for disclosure of political spending by public corporations. The ACIR is a body of trustees, faculty, staff and students of The New School charged with incorporating consideration of social, environmental, and corporate governance issues into the management of The New School's endowment investments. The ACIR’s letter to the SEC is the first from a university body in support of Petition 4-637, which urges the SEC to use its rule-making authority to mandate disclosure of corporate campaign financing.

Following the Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United, political campaigns have been flooded by soft money of ambiguous origin. Terra Lawson-Remer, faculty member and chair of the ACIR states that, "it has become increasingly clear that non-transparent and unaccountable corporate financing of political campaigns is corroding our democracy.”  The New School ACIR is urging the SEC to mandate the disclosure of material corporate political spending, in order to facilitate market transparency, assist shareholders in monitoring the spending practices of the corporations they own, provide the information necessary for universities to invest prudently and in line with their missions, and illuminate the activities of corporations in the elections that govern this nation.

The ACIR of The New School has prioritized this issue as it believes that American universities, who collectively hold over $400 billion in their endowments, have a special responsibility to ensure that their investments align with the ethos of the overall institution. Izza Aftab, student representative on the ACIR and a graduate student in economics, noted that, “Universities play the dual role of investors and educators in a dynamic environment. Therefore, it is absolutely essential that universities call for transparency in corporate political spending in order to set standards for the students of today, who are the leaders of tomorrow.” Non-transparency, and the corresponding failures of weak accountability and poor governance, undermines the values and practices of educational institutions.

REC can help your school send a letter to the SEC and support political contributions disclosure, or ask your school to do that. To get involved, fill out this form!
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Support Political Contributions Disclosure

On Monday, October 8, The New School’s Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility (ACIR) submitted a letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) calling for disclosure of political spending by public corporations. The ACIR is a body of trustees, faculty, staff and students of The New School charged with incorporating consideration of social, environmental, and corporate governance issues into the management of The New School's endowment investments. The ACIR’s letter to the SEC is the first from a university body in support of Petition 4-637, which urges the SEC to use its rule-making authority to mandate disclosure of corporate campaign financing.

Following the Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United, political campaigns have been flooded by soft money of ambiguous origin. Terra Lawson-Remer, faculty member and chair of the ACIR states that, "it has become increasingly clear that non-transparent and unaccountable corporate financing of political campaigns is corroding our democracy.”  The New School ACIR is urging the SEC to mandate the disclosure of material corporate political spending, in order to facilitate market transparency, assist shareholders in monitoring the spending practices of the corporations they own, provide the information necessary for universities to invest prudently and in line with their missions, and illuminate the activities of corporations in the elections that govern this nation.

The ACIR of The New School has prioritized this issue as it believes that American universities, who collectively hold over $400 billion in their endowments, have a special responsibility to ensure that their investments align with the ethos of the overall institution. Izza Aftab, student representative on the ACIR and a graduate student in economics, noted that, “Universities play the dual role of investors and educators in a dynamic environment. Therefore, it is absolutely essential that universities call for transparency in corporate political spending in order to set standards for the students of today, who are the leaders of tomorrow.” Non-transparency, and the corresponding failures of weak accountability and poor governance, undermines the values and practices of educational institutions.

REC can help your school send a letter to the SEC and support political contributions disclosure, or ask help you ask your school to do that. We'll be hosting a conference call in two weeks to do just that! To get involved, fill out this form!
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Take a Bite Out of Big Polluters

We’ve all begun to notice the weather turning colder, holiday music blaring from speakers in every public business, and felt an inexplicable  urge to consume any and all peppermint flavored treats that cross our paths.

Let’s embrace the changing season and incorporate some of the more festive aspects of this time of year into our campaign work.  With that said, this time of year is also incredibly stressful with classes winding down and finals approaching.

Why not spread your message across campus and bring a dose of levity into the lives of fellow students? One tactic you might consider to increase membership, build allies in the faculty and administration, and generate visuals for future media stories is planning a Campaign Cookie Party.

You'll be able to engage new members in the cookie making process and end up with a batch of unique, edible visuals to use when tabling, doing class raps, or petitioning. You might consider making a personal delivery to your allies in the faculty and administration to show appreciation for their support.

Capture photos of the baking process and distribution to have a host of colorful pictures for future events!

Before the Event


  • Make a facebook event promoting your tabling session with the cookies, inviting interested folks to the cookie-making session as well - great way to plug in volunteers!

During the Event


  • Take a picture of people eating the photos and tweet it directly to the company the cookie targets.

  • Sample tweets .@REInvestEarlham Campaign takes a bite out of @ExxonMobil corporate greed! (bitly photo link here) @Earlham1847 @energyaction @endowmentethics #divestnow

  • Other people to tweet this action at: University President, Sustainability/Finance Office if they have accounts, specific individual targets within the administration or board

  • hashtags to use: #divestnow, #powershift, etc.

After the Event


  • Upload your photos to your campaign’s facebook page and tag your friends!

  • Write up a short blog and include all of your photos

  • Share the blog on facebook and twitter with your university, corporate targets, and friends

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Bankrolling Climate Destruction, by Rainforest Action Network

Check out this new report from our allies at Rainforest Action Network, written by REC Board Member Ben Collins.

From Ben:

When we started research on our new report, little did we know that Sandy would wreak havoc on its release day. But the sad fact is that storms like Sandy will become even more frequent and even more disruptive if we don't act fast to stem climate chaos.

Yesterday, Rainforest Action Network and BankTrack released our new report, Bankrolling Climate Disruption: The Impacts of the Banking Sector’s Financed Emissions, which spells out the swift action that the banking sector must take to account for and reduce its biggest impact on the climate: the emissions it finances. You can also read our blog post on the report here.
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