Fordham Campaign Takes Huge Step

by Brett Vetterlein, Community Investment Campaign Organizer


The campaign here at Fordham to move our money into the Bronx community has reached a new high. We are inches away from success and ready for what comes next. After a lot of hard work put in by our group “Fordham for the Bronx,” including countless hours of research, proposal drafting, tabling, petitioning, and fliering, we are making serious headway.

Back in early March, we presented our campaign to the United Student Government with the hope of gaining official support from the representative of the student body. With a near unanimous vote in favor of the proposal, which asks for 0.5% to 1% of the Operating Account (between $170,000 and $350,000) to be invested in either Bethex Federal Credit Union or the Amalgamated Bank, we decided it was time to take things to the next level. The next week we got our letter of support from USG, another from some faculty members, as well as our proposal and officially submitted them to both the university’s Chief Financial Officer and the Treasurer. That day we got the chance to speak briefly with the Treasurer to give him a little more detail about what we want and why we want it, who seemed interested by the idea.

Giving the administration time to digest the proposal, we met again with the Treasurer on April 6th to give our “pitch.” However, it seemed like the pitch was unnecessary. The Treasurer was overwhelmingly positive in his response to the proposal, suggesting that the university would considering making two investments of $250,000, totally half a million dollars, into the financial institutions we suggested. This is still unofficial, and in my last conversation with the Treasurer, he said he was still working out all the details. While the money is not moved yet, and we don’t have time to slow down and celebrate, it was nice to just take a second and look back at how far we had come in just barely a years time. We at Fordham are very confident that this money will be set to be moved before the summer comes, and are prepared to follow up during the summer and into next semester to make sure it does. If successful, Fordham for the Bronx hopes to pursue other community investment projects in the Bronx. We have begun to considering doing a Bronx-wide community investment initiative, aimed at getting the biggest powerhouses, including Montefiore Hospital and the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, to start moving money away from corporate banks and into the hands of Bronx residents.
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U.S. SIF Says Community Investment Will Become Even More Influential in the Future

Check out this press release from U.S. SIF singing the praises of community investment and predicting its continued rise in the latter half of 2011 and beyond. As REC launches its national community investment campaign, it's clear the momentum is building!



EXPERTS:  AS TRADITIONAL BANKS FAIL TO MEET MORE AND MORE LOCAL NEEDS, COMMUNITY INVESTING POISED TO BREAK THROUGH TO MAINSTREAM IN 2011

Already One of the Fastest-Growing Aspects of Socially Responsible and Sustainable Investing, Community Investing’s Continued Rise Seen As Fueled by 3 Major Trends Among Consumers, Institutions.



WASHINGTON, D.C.///April 13, 2011///”Community investing”  is already the unsung hero in thousands of towns and neighborhoods across America, where it quietly has added jobs, local services and support for small businesses where traditional lenders have been unable or unwilling to do so.  In 2011, community investing is poised to become much more widely visible as a result of three trends that could boost related investments from individuals and institutions, according to experts from the Social Investment Forum, Green America, One PacificCoast Bank and the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions.

Community investment involves capital from investors and lenders that is directed, typically via community development financial institutions (CDFIs) and other community investing institutions, to communities and individuals that are underserved by traditional financial services. According to a major 2010 Social Investment Forum Foundation report (the most recent data set currently available), assets in community investing institutions rose more than 60 percent from $25 billion in 2007 to $41.7 billion at the start of 2010, reflecting healthy growth in all four categories of community investing institutions: community development banks, community development credit unions, community development loan funds and community development venture capital funds.*  (For more information, see http://www.socialinvest.org/resources/research/documents/2010TrendsES.pdf.)

In a news conference today, experts from the Social Investment Forum, Green America,  One PacificCoast Bank and the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions identified three trends expected to continue leading to a surge in community investing assets in 2011:


  • Rising institutional interest in community investing. The latest SIF Trends report shows that institutions in several categories are now investing more in community investing, thanks in part to SIF’s education and outreach efforts around this issue to financial advisors, investment managers and religious institutions. According to new data from the Sustainable Endowments Institute, colleges and universities are now among the leaders in moving assets into community investing.   Major institutions that have recently turned their attention to community investing include Mount Holyoke, Macalester College, Dickinson, Lehigh, Vanderbilt, and Skidmore.



  • Growing consumer awareness of community investing success stories. Most CDFI banks were formed after 1994, initially as small institutions to serve communities that had little access to financial institutions and services. Over the past decades, these institutions have grown at a greater rate than conventional banks of the same size as they have met pent-up demand. An example of this demand: In a recent one-month period, Green America received nearly 15,000 orders and downloads for its new Guide to Community Investing, which helps individual investors take part in this fast-growing field.  (See http://www.greenamerica.org/socialinvesting/communityinvesting/orderguide.cfm.)  This is where success breeds more success:  As community investing institutions meet local demands, they attract additional assets from individuals and institutions wanting to be part of such positive change and help local institutions to flourish.


Fran Teplitz, director of social investing & strategic outreach, Green America said: “The fact that community investing has grown steadily over the past decade, despite fears of capital constraints and the impacts of the market downturn, is a strong indicator for future growth.  Add to that consumers continuing frustration around mega-banks, and the growing movement to support local economies, and we’re likely to see continued growth of CI in 2011 and beyond.”

Meg Voorhes, deputy director and research director, Social Investment Forum, said: For many years, investment managers and advisors specializing in socially responsible investing have helped clients allocate a portion of their portfolios to community investing. It is exciting to see a new wave of interest in community investing as foundations and other institutions look for investments that will have high social impact.”

Cliff Rosenthal, president and CEO, National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions, and a member of the board of directors of the Social Investment Forum, said: “Many Community Development Credit Unions and other CDFIs have played a crucial role throughout the recession in providing credit to borrowers who were shut out of the conventional capital markets.”

Kat Taylor, founding director, One PacificCoast Bank, said: "We believe that Beneficial Banking -- providing fair and transparent transactional and savings services and loan capital for business and job growth in all communities -- is what all banks should deliver for the privilege of federal deposit insurance. In particular, we focus on lending that supports clean technology solutions, regenerative agriculture and natural resource use, critical community institutions, job growth and a living wage, as well as the resilience of consumers in times of setback. Banking that supports people and the planet will be critical in serving the nation as a whole as well as marginalized communities in order to move toward reliable prosperity for all. We understand that a bank cannot measure success and sustainability by focusing on profits alone, which is why community development financial institutions are so important.”

BACKGROUND: THE RISE OF COMMUNITY INVESTING

According to the Social Investment Forum’s 2010 data, top-level trends in community investing include the following:

  • Assets in Community Development Banks grew to $17.3 billion by yearend 2009, up 34 percent from the 2006 total of $12.9 billion and sixfold from $2.9 billion in 1999.


  • Assets in Community Development Credit Unions grew to $11.1 billion at the end of 2009, up 76 percent from $6.3 billion in 2006 and by more than a factor of 18 since 1999, when they stood at $610 million.


  • Assets in Community Development Loan Funds grew to approximately $11.3 billion at the end of 2009, up approximately 145 percent from $4.6 billion in 2006 and more than six times from $1.7 billion in 1999. Of the 2009 total, approximately $2.2 billion are in US-based international microfinance funds that provide or guarantee loans for small-business creation and community development abroad.*


  • Assets in Community Development Venture Capital Funds grew to $2 billion in 2009, an increase of 67 percent from $1.2 billion in yearend 2006 and 1200 percent from $150 million in 1999.


A major factor in CDFIs’ asset growth has been the capital they have received from the US government, as well as foundations and other institutional investors. US Treasury programs stepped up assistance to CDFIs in 2009 as part of US government economic stimulus and recovery programs. In recent years, a number of campaigns, touting such concepts as “program-related investing” and “impact investing” have helped to increase awareness among foundations, other institutional investors and high-net-worth individuals of the high social impact associated with community investing strategies. However, the threat of a pullback in federal support for CDFIs has the potential to put a crimp in the rise of community investing as the very point where communities need it the most, according to the experts.



ABOUT THE ORGANIZATIONS

Green America is the nation’s leading green economy organization. Founded in 1982, Green America (formerly Co-op America) provides the economic strategies, organizing power and practical tools for businesses and individuals to solve today's social and environmental problems. www.GreenAmerica.org.

The Social Investment Forum is the U.S. membership association for professionals, firms, institutions and organizations engaged in socially responsible and sustainable investing (SRI). The Social Investment Forum advances investment practices that consider environmental, social and corporate governance criteria to generate long-term competitive financial returns and positive societal impact. SIF members support SRI through such strategies as portfolio selection analysis, shareholder advocacy and community investing.  www.socialinvest.org. The Social Investment Forum Foundation, the publisher of the 2010 Report on Socially Responsible Investing Trends in the United States, carries out research activities to support the public education mission of the Social Investment Forum.

One PacificCoast Bank, FSB, is an FDIC-insured Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) that serves businesses, nonprofit organizations, and individuals. One PacificCoast Bank operates from a triple-bottom-line perspective that allows it to place equal importance on its financial, social, and environmental goals while meeting the needs of its communities. One PacificCoast Bank’s beneficial banking services integrate financial literacy, technical assistance, and business education through support from the One PacificCoast Foundation. The bank is headquartered in Oakland, California with branches in Seattle and Ilwaco, Washington, and a lending office in Portland, Oregon. www.onepacificcoastbank.com

The National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions represents more than 225 credit unions that serve low-income communities. The Federation, which co-founded and sits on the board of the CDFI Coalition, has provided capital to low-income credit unions nationwide since 1983.  www.natfed.org

MEDIA CONTACT: Patrick Mitchell, (703) 276-3266 or pmitchell@hastingsgroup.com.

EDITOR’S NOTE: A streaming audio replay of the news event will be available on the Web at www.greenamerica.org/about/newsroom as of 5 p.m. EDT on April 13, 2011.

*  Because of a change in data sources, the pool of certified CDFI loan funds measured for the 2010 report increased from the 146 largest certified CDFI loan funds at the end of 2006, to all 519 at year-end 2009, so a direct comparision is not possible.

http://ussif.org/news/releases/pressrelease.cfm?id=173
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Campus Updates, April 2011: news from Boston University, Grinnell College, Miami University of Ohio, and more!



REC’s presence at Power Shift 2011 was a huge success! We had a great workshop attended by a number of enthusiastic activists from all over the country, including a number of campuses new to the REC network, including Virginia Tech, Georgia Southern University, SUNY Purchase, Trinity University, the University of Montana, and many more!

A coalition of students at Boston University is in talks with their administration about the creation of a responsible investment committee, as well as instituting investment screens around a number of issues of concern to the community.

Fordham for the Bronx, a student group at Fordham University, has submitted a community investment proposal that has been well-received by the administration (although no official word yet.) Check out the full story here.

At Grinnell College, the Student Investment Committee hosted a forum recently on responsible investment and what it means at their school. Read the campus media coverage here.

REC was happy to meet a number of activists from Loyola University of New Orleans face-to-face for the first time at Power Shift 2011! The Loyola University Community Action Program (LUCAP) is considering responsible investment as an official campaign for the 2011-2012 school year.

Macalester College students and committee members are contemplating the creation of a student-run SRI fund. REC is eager to support their efforts!

Students at Miami University of Ohio are in the early stages of talks with the administration about how to make the university a more responsible investor.

Students at Middlebury College are putting the finishing touches on their report on Middlebury’s new sustainability fund, while also thinking about the potential for cross-campus organizing with other university clients that share fund managers.

At Tufts University, a community investment proposal endorsed by a wide variety of stakeholders in the university has been received by the administration. REC is hopeful that we will be able to add Tufts to our list of community investment success stories!

The University of Oregon’s ReVest campaign is at a crossroads following unsuccessful talks with the University of Oregon Foundation around the creation of a responsible investment committee, and are discussing next moves for this school year and the next.

At Washington University in St. Louis, students and other stakeholders are working hard to assemble their newly-won Investment Responsibility Advisory Committee with the support of REC.
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Campus Updates, April 2011: news from Boston University, Grinnell College, Miami University of Ohio, and more!





Boston University. Photo by Flickr user wallyg


REC’s presence at Power Shift 2011 was a huge success! We had a great workshop attended by a number of enthusiastic activists from all over the country, including a number of campuses new to the REC network, including Virginia Tech, Georgia Southern University, SUNY Purchase, Trinity University, the University of Montana, and many more!

A coalition of students at Boston University is in talks with their administration about the creation of a responsible investment committee, as well as instituting investment screens around a number of issues of concern to the community.

Fordham for the Bronx, a student group at Fordham University, has submitted a community investment proposal that has been well-received by the administration (although no official word yet.) Check out the full story here.

At Grinnell College, the Student Investment Committee hosted a forum recently on responsible investment and what it means at their school. Read the campus media coverage here.

REC was happy to meet a number of activists from Loyola University of New Orleans face-to-face for the first time at Power Shift 2011! The Loyola University Community Action Program (LUCAP) is considering responsible investment as an official campaign for the 2011-2012 school year.

Macalester College students and committee members are contemplating the creation of a student-run SRI fund. REC is eager to support their efforts!

Students at Miami University of Ohio are in the early stages of talks with the administration about how to make the university a more responsible investor.

Students at Middlebury College are putting the finishing touches on their report on Middlebury’s new sustainability fund, while also thinking about the potential for cross-campus organizing with other university clients that share fund managers.

At Tufts University, a community investment proposal endorsed by a wide variety of stakeholders in the university has been received by the administration. REC is hopeful that we will be able to add Tufts to our list of community investment success stories!

The University of Oregon’s ReVest campaign is at a crossroads following unsuccessful talks with the University of Oregon Foundation around the creation of a responsible investment committee, and are discussing next moves for this school year and the next.

At Washington University in St. Louis, students and other stakeholders are working hard to assemble their newly-won Investment Responsibility Advisory Committee with the support of REC.
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Goodbye Angela... and Welcome, Annie!



But as we say goodbye to one staff member, we say hello to another. We're pleased to welcome REC's new Development Director Annie McShiras to our team! Prior to joining REC, Annie worked to secure affordable housing placements for homeless individuals in New York City. She also has experience advocating for strong, local food economies in rural Vermont. Now as a REC employee, Annie is especially excited for the opportunity to connect with inspiring student activists around the country. We look forward to working with her in the future to make REC the best organization it can be!
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A New Model for Responsible Investment: Cross-Campus Organizing for Manager Engagement

by Olivia Grugan, Northeast Student Organizer


Two weeks ago I opened up my email to find a message from a student at Smith. She had found my name through Responsible Endowments Coalition’s website and thought that I might have some information about one of Smith’s endowment managers, Investure.  She was interested to learn more about socially responsible investment options available through Investure, of which both Middlebury and Smith are clients.  Having worked with one such initiative for over a year now, I was able to share my experience with her, and she was able to apply it to her work at Smith.


This cross-campus connection made me think.  Since Middlebury and Smith are both clients of the same fund managers, we are able to organize jointly in a new way.  Traditionally, socially responsible investing has been understood to include divestment campaigns (such as those from South Africa and Darfur), proxy voting and filing shareholder resolutions.  However, as more and more colleges are renouncing their direct holdings and instead outsourcing endowment management to off-site managers, such as Investure, some of these shareholder rights are lost.   Some campus committees on Socially Responsible Investment have even dissolved because they were primarily set up to vote on proxies and no longer have that ability.

Here at Middlebury, a new kind of organizing has arisen in this proxy-voting vacuum.  When Middlebury students realized that we were not going to be able to vote on shareholder resolutions anymore because Middlebury no longer directly held stock, we turned our efforts toward fund manager engagement.  Over the past two years we have been able to meet in person with a representative from our primary fund manager and have participated in the establishment of Investure’s Sustainable Investment Initiative, a separately managed fund that is directed by careful guidelines focusing on sustainability and environmental impact.  Both Dickinson College and the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation are also invested in this initiative.

While the establishment of the Sustainable Investments Initiative certainly signifies the great potential of manager engagement, we have also encountered many challenges.  Working with endowment managers means interacting with people who are one step removed from our campus activities.  Unlike our Board of Trustees and campus administration, they are not as familiar with the culture and operations of our campus community.  In this process it has proven extremely important to maintain regular communication with our campus administration since they have more direct connections to our fund manager.  This two-step communication process is a bit more tedious, but by no means impossible.

A second challenge is in the reporting process.  Since our fund manager chooses the contents of the portfolio, it can be hard to learn exactly what the investments are.  At Middlebury we are working on setting up a process where by we can have access to some level of transparency and create our own campus report of the Sustainable Investment Initiative.  However, the confidential nature of the investing process makes this process difficult at times.

In the face of these challenges, I was especially excited when I read the email from the Smith student.  I think each of these challenges could be addressed through cross-campus organizing of colleges who share endowment managers.  Through collective engagement, we might have a greater voice with our fund managers.  However, as I begin to explore this possibility, I realize that I am extremely naive as to the feasibility of this kind of organizing.  I don’t know if other campus committees are interested in manager engagement, if committees know who their managers are, if managers and Boards of Trustees would be willing to facilitate the communication from committees to managers, or if we—as a national movement—have the capacity to facilitate these cross-campus connections.  But I’d like to explore the idea.  So please see this as an open invitation to dialogue and share your thoughts.  Hopefully together we can shape a new and viable form of organizing that continues to further our work in socially responsible investing.
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An Adaptive Institution

by Dave Warnock, Midwest Student Organizer

The recent wave of demonstrations in the Middle East has me thinking about how quickly new issues can arise in the public eye. Although the events leading up to the demonstrations in the Middle East had been long building, the American public was still caught off-guard. This surprise element has implications that this has for the progressive movement, not simply for this event, but in general. My thinking is that our strength as a movement derives largely from putting systems in place to handle surprise.

This is one of the things I like about working on Endowment issues is that our efforts can focus on structural matters more than on individual issues. Here at Washington University, we put a lot of thought into the ability for the Committee on Investor Responsibility (CIR) to adapt towards the issues of the future. Our thinking was that, eventually there will come a day when today’s issues, such as climate change, will have been solved, but something will most certainly take its place. So the question becomes, how to prevent the CIR Committee of the future from resting on its laurels.

I offer this as a suggestion. We gave our CIR the explicit charge of investigating the “Campus Consensus” on an annual basis. The goal is to see that the issues that students care about are adopted by the CIR and acted upon automatically. It leaves the door open for activists to demonstrate that their causes have the support of the University public, both in the present and in the future.

However, truth be told, though, this was not the optimal way to go. It would have been better to have individuals approach the committee with the issue they care about directly. This is an extra obstacle that one would need to overcome to get action by the CIR. If you have the political wherewithal to push this approach, I recommend it as the first choice. But I must admit, that we agreed to “trade the pubic option” to get the Committee passed in broad.

I’m not too discouraged, though. I have confidence in the skills of Washington University’s progressive organizers to meet the more challenging standard. They have followed the structural change to the University very closely, and they seem prepared to handle the challenge. The most important part was preserved: the CIR is obliged to keep tabs on the concerns of the campus, which will provide for its adaptability. A Committee on Investor Responsibility cannot simply be entrusted to work on timely matters without codified prodding. So my advice is to use this approach as a compromise in negotiation with your Investment Office. For us, it proved to be our best alternative.
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Howard Students Want In!

by Illai Kenney, Southeast Student Organizer

The Howard University Employees Federal Credit Union (HUEFC) is open to Howard University employees and their relatives.  The credit union currently has 2,770 members and has holdings of 9 million dollars.  The credit union began in 1935 and has never in its history allowed students to become members.  We are in the process of changing this!  Recently a member of the board of trustees for the credit union fell in love with the idea of having student members.  I was able to present the idea of student membership to this board member and she was excited about the potential of students to become members.

As a financial institution HUEFC offers line of credit services and savings accounts to its members among a few other services.  Students could benefit greatly from the opportunity to save with a financial institution that invests in the community around it.  Howard University has a student body of approximately 7,000 undergraduate students that could be served by the credit union.

The request that the board of trustees consider allowing students to become members of the HUEFC was met with a few concerns.   The most important being the potential for students to take out loans and not repay them.  This concern could be addressed by limiting the capacity of student membership or altering the loan requirements so that they are not a good fit for students who would be unlikely to repay them.  From the report back I was given about the meeting of the board of trustees there was not much consideration given to the idea of students becoming members.

Going forward the plan is to work to make more board members see the value of student members.  Students can help the credit union expand and the credit union can help teach students about successful banking and saving.  In the next month a formal request will be submitted to the board of trustees by one of its members essentially asking that the board give full consideration to having student members.  This request will be supported by documentation of others schools and credit unions that successfully allow student membership.

The goal is to have the board see the value of students as members and give the idea actual discussion.  Another goal of the proposal is to get the board to consider offering more services to its members.  The limited services the credit union offers to its current members has stunted the effectiveness and growth of the credit union in some ways.  The HUEFC not providing basic services like checking accounts to its members forces those who are eligible to become members, but need checking accounts and not just savings accounts or lines of credit to either bank with two financial institutions or opt not to become a member of HUEFC.  Expanding the services offered would allow the HUEFC to better serve the Howard University community and going further to allow students to join the HUEFC would maximize the credit union’s positive impact on the Howard University community.
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Students: Support the Higher Education Right-to-Know Act!

by Caroline Incledon, Community Investment Campaign Organizer



Massachusetts state Senators Michael Moran and Pat Jehlen recently co-sponsored a bill that would strengthen state financial disclosure requirements for private universities. The bill calls for more transparency and accountability in endowment practices or other investment procedures of universities. This bill is an initiative that students should support, because it will promote better practices and ensure the financial stability of the institutions of which we are part.

The recent financial crisis significantly hurt school endowments. For example, the University of Massachusetts endowment lost 17% of its value from 2008-2009. The lack of oversight and transparency on Wall Street created problems that affected all, and made it even more imperative for universities and colleges to closely monitor their financial situations. However, schools of higher education often fall prey to the same mistakes that Wall Street did, by not incorporating enough transparency and accountability into their endowment or investment management.

Endowments can and should be handled responsibly. The Higher Education Right-to-Know Act aims to define and implement ways that universities can improve their financial stability to the benefits of the schools themselves and the communities of which they are part. For example, if the bill were passed, colleges and universities would have to calculate the amount of subsidies and tax exemptions they receive from the government and report that figure. They would also have to provide listings of their assets and real property and report that figure, as well. These increased reporting would ensure that universities were honest about their holdings, and that their tax exemptions were fair. Furthermore, colleges would have to list all employees making over $250,000 a year, and ensure that individuals on their boards file conflict of interest disclosures. These steps would make legislators, citizens, stakeholders, and students more equipped to monitor if endowments were being managed soundly and in the interest of the students and community – not in the interest of generating personal wealth. The bill allows universities to retain opaqueness in their individual investments, but ensures that this investment is done in a safe and fair way.

My group, Students at Tufts for Investment Responsibility, supports this legislation. I hope that other Massachusetts students will also fight for the bill’s passage. Students in other states should also look to this bill when advocating transparency, as it provides clear examples of tangible transparency goals. Hopefully, these goals will turn into a reality.

Want to help get this historic legislation passed? Email organize@endowmentethics.org to learn how you get involved.
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Harvard Students Advocate Support of Mass. Higher Ed Transparency Act



On Tuesday, The Harvard Crimson published an article titled "Putting the Green in Green" which nicely encapsulates Harvard's "green" image and that to be truly sustainable, Harvard should disclose it's investments, make more responsible investment choices, and support the Higher Education Transparency Act, introduced by Rep. Michael Moran in the Massachusetts State Legislature. Author Sandra Korn writes:


With such a large endowment, Harvard has the potential to put enormous pressure on unsustainable corporations to improve their environmental practices and support companies committed to sustainability. But due to the Harvard Management Corporation’s lack of transparency, donors to the University and students like me have absolutely no idea if Harvard is investing in environmentally friendly companies.


And further explains why Harvard University should support the bill:

Fortunately, the Higher Education Transparency Act , a bill introduced recently to the Massachusetts State Legislature, would require that Harvard and other private universities in the state make information about their investments available to the public. This increased transparency will allow more critical discussion about the ethics of Harvard’s investments and hopefully lead to a more socially just endowment. Students, faculty, and administrators alike should support and encourage increased transparency not only as a means to financial accountability, but as the only way for Harvard to become a true green University.


Check the rest of the article out here.
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