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We're working on gathering signatures on our petition to show student support, and finishing our Community Investment proposal. Our group is expanding and many alumni have expressed support.
We're currently working on a widespread information spreading campaign on campus, and we're finishing our proxy voting guidelines.
Brown became the first school to take action on labor abuses by HEI, a private company that operates several hotel chains in the U.S. Read more at http://www.yaledailynews.com/crosscampus/2010/03/15/brown-speaks-out-embattled-investment-yale-alleged/
Students for Staff are offering teach-ins the first week of spring term, culminating when the trustees are meeting. Hoping to change the structure of the ACIR so it has greater power over investment decisions
Students on their CIR are busy voting proxies this season and supporting students who have entered the Cornell SustaInvest competition for sustainable investment.
Students on their CIR are actively outreaching to other CIRs to learn how they operate. They are also interested in pursuing a community investment campaign as well as getting Drew to sign on to the UN Principles of Responsible Investment.
Officials have refused to respond to repeated inquiries about the status of their responsible investment policy, which was suspended last year after the Palestine divestment situation.
Students hope to include SRI in the Earth Day activities and are continuing to work to open the campus credit union to students.
Loyola University of Chicago
The CIR filed a shareholder resolution against financing mountaintop removal mining at JP Morgan Chase. The resolution was omitted but the company has agreed to take a public stand against mountaintop removal mining. You can read more at http://www.endowmentethics.org/news-media/archives/205.
Students submitted a proposal for an SRI committee at the end of last semester and have been meeting with a fairly receptive administration regarding next steps.
Swat representatives attended the REC roundtable on shareholder engagement and hope to pursue greater collaboration with other area universities. They plan to host a similar collaborative roundtable this fall.
UC Berkeley and the UCs
The UC Coalition for Responsible Investment continues to organize around proxy voting by bringing speakers to campus and raising awareness about the issue in advance of the upcoming Regents meeting. Students for Justice in Palestine at Berkeley successfully got a student senate resolution that asked the university to divest from companies profiting from the Israeli occupation of Palestinian Territory. The student president vetoed it but the senate will consider overriding his veto later this month.
University of Chicago
Students continue to push for a responsible investment policy and plan to submit a proposal to their administration by the end of spring semester.
University of Virginia
Students in the Socially Responsible Investment Organization successfully convinced their student government to support their proposal for the responsible investment of UVA’s endowment. You can read more at (http://www.cavalierdaily.com/2009/12/01/studco-expresses-support-for-investment-proposal/).
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Loyola University Chicago’s Shareholder Advocacy Committee (SAC), utilizing the University’s stock in JP Morgan Chase, has been in conversation with the company regarding their involvement in mountain top removal coal mining (MTR).
A few of JP Morgan Chase’s competitors, such as Bank of America and Citigroup, have released policies or processes for environmental due diligence regarding MTR. The university is asking for a similar action from the company, as well as a clear and transparent policy for its stance on the issue - as a matter of both social and environmental justice and reputational risk.
Many such corporations believe that such environmental regulations are not their own responsibility, but rather under the purview of the government. Loyola has exemplified that colleges and universities, as shareholders, can – with a balanced approach – engage in dialogue with these companies to effect positive change in corporate behavior, and uphold their responsibilities, not only for their own success and credibility as global citizens, but for the common good.
Loyola’s SAC is receiving support from the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, National Jesuit Committee on Investment Responsibility, the Responsible Endowments Coalition, Seattle University, Stanford University and Columbia University.
Check out recent media on the issue at http://motherjones.com/politics/2010/03/jpmorgan-mountaintop-removal-mining
If your school is interested in participating in conversations such as Loyola’s Shareholder Advocacy Committee or if you’re interested in bringing the Move Your Money campaign to your campus as an extension of such a statement to banks like JP Morgan Chase, please contact the REC team. We are always happy to help!
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By Cheyenna Weber, Organizing Director
What is burnout? Burnout is feeling chronically tired, listless or depressed, decreased immunity, increased aches and pains, irritability, feeling overwhelmed and underappreciated, and worst of all, hopeless. It’s been described as feeling underwater, or being unable to ever catch up, or feeling bored or angry at colleagues. If you’re feeling this way it’s ok: it does not mean you are a bad activist or a bad person. It just means you—and the folks you work with—need to make some adjustments. (You can check to see if you’re burned out by visiting the ACLU's Burnout Prevention site.)
How do we get burned out? We take on too much, often without proper support, and fail to recognize the negative effects. We forgo celebrating or reflecting and instead focus only on the long to-do list in front of us. We neglect play. This is partly because of youth and zeal for our causes but part of it is also cultural. As activists we’re trained to put the needs of others first. Radical activism often operates in a culture of martyrdom that is defined by personal sacrifice. The trouble is this isn’t a realistic model or indicative of the world we’re trying to build.
So what can we do once we are burned out? What can we do to prevent it? Here’s a list, gathered from various authorities on the subject.
1. Colleen Holt, from Coaching for Social Change, recommends that we take “small sweet steps” towards recovery. Burnout can’t be fixed overnight, but if you make a commitment to do something every day that reminds you of your purpose as an individual, even if it just means watching the sunset each day, that’s a good step.
2. Rest! In an increasingly work-obsessed capitalist culture setting firm boundaries around rest and recreation is a radical act. Turn off your phone when you go on vacation. Sleep 8 hours a night. Schedule time for nothing.
3. Play! Stuart Brown, who has devoted his life to the science of play, has found that “the process of play allows us to deal with the craziness and allows generation of solutions to problems…in the absence of play we meet life’s paradoxes with bitterness and rigidity that prevents us from really engaging.” Basically, play helps us to maintain empowered strategic thinking. Without it we lose our edge.
4. Communicate. Let people know how you are feeling. We should trust the people we’re working with to build a better world to support us and recognize the capacity of the group. Ask people to reflect on this. You might even consider asking everyone to take the ACLU survey above.
5. Focus on virtuosity. Roberto Lovato, a highly successful community organizer, says “it is not enough to look good, it has to be good.” The only way our work can be strategic, nuanced, and have a lasting impact is if we give it the time and energy it requires. You can’t do that if you are divided among several groups or campaigns in a stressful harried schedule.
Burnout isn’t something that can be “fixed” overnight. In fact, to address it we have to look not only at ourselves, but also our organizations, our cultures, and our communities. Creating time for reflection for yourself and your group, and discussing burnout not as a tragedy but as a pitfall inherent in our work will help to empower you and others to make more sustainable choices. That will not only help us to continue to commit ourselves to social justice work, it will also make our movement welcoming to others.
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By Illai Kenney, REC Southeast Student Organizer
In America there are no true movements toward social change that are not impacted by young people. This is more true than ever with the Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) movement. The movement toward SRI is fueled by the knowledge that how we use our money in investments has just as much impact as how we spend money daily and how we use economic leverage in politics. Unfortunately, there are many people (young and old alike) who are unaware of this particular economic power. The SRI movement seeks to enlighten them and recruit them into making strategic changes in how they impact the world .
Colleges and Universities in America are uniquely positioned to take part in this movement because they maintain endowments and have a large population of active young people. What is an endowment? An endowment is basically a school's savings. It is the money the university puts into a "piggy bank" or invests in some way to save for the future. All institutions invest their endowments and do everything possible to ensure that the money grows. Historically Black Colleges and Universities (or HBCUs) are quite similar to other institutions in the ways they invest their endowments. HBCUs differ from other universities because they usually have a mission that includes the development and advancement of African Americans, a strong commitment to social justice, and a student body that values and embodies this. HBCUs are also different from other institutions because of the campus culture. Their investments, as such, should reflect this.
Endowment ethics is key to HBCUs because they have a strong history of promoting justice and equality (look for this in my next blog!). HBCUs are intrusted with the distinct duty of ensuring that they empower people of color and those negatively impacted by poverty and other injustices. HBCUs have an opportunity to offer assistance to underprivileged communities by investing their money in a socially responsible manner. The impact that HBCUs can have with their sizable endowments could change millions of lives for the better. It is up to the students at HBCUs to ensure that their colleges and universities live up to the standard that has been set. As students we owe it to ourselves and to our community to ensure that our universities invest in a socially responsible manner.
So, now that we know what SRI is and why it is important how do we do it? Investing in a socially responsible manner can come in many different forms. One of the most common ways is screening investments. This simply means that a university would prevent their endowment money from being invested in companies that have ties to certain industries. The most commonly screened is the Tobacco industry. Another form of socially responsible investing is shareholder advocacy (SA). SA is essentially owning a significant amount of stock or shares in a company that the university would like to see change and then assisting them in changing through shareholder resolutions and pressure from the university and other concerned shareholders. Many HBCUs do not invest directly in companies (many use mutual funds as the primary form of investment) so other ways of socially responsible investing must also be utilized. Another way to pursue SRI is to invest in community development. Community development can mean a variety of things as well. HBCUs are well known for investing in local businesses and providing a platform for small business owners to develop themselves. Community development can also include banking with a community development credit union (which makes small loans to local people who would otherwise be denied the opportunity to flouish in business) among other ways of spreading funds.
Okay, so not that you've consumed all of this new information where do we go from here? The first step is to get students, faculty, and staff on your campus to recognize the importance of SRI. This shouldn't be too difficult because most of them in some way already do. After there is recognition there must be action. Even if the action is only freshening up the university's policy on investing it is a very worthwhile effort. Students on all HBCU campuses should be campaigning to make certain that their campus is doing its best to live up to its motto and improve the surrounding community and ultimately the world. The legacy that any university has is created and maintained by its students. HBCUs already have a legacy of SRI but it is up to us, the current students, to solidify and build upon it to ensure a better more sustainable future for us all.
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By Matt Birnbaum, Middlebury College
It’s quite easy nowadays to vilify Big Business and conglomerated corporate interests. In fact, in a way, it’s become even fashionable — certainly not much of a surprise after watching the financial giants pull enormous profits out of thin air, cause a near collapse of our economy and then steal (under the guise of a federal bailout) our taxpayer money. Can you even feign shock that they are now actively (and productively) lobbying to ensure regulatory reform never sees a congressional agenda?
And it’s not just Michael Moore running around with an empty sack, pestering the old white boys at Goldman Sachs either. On the other side of the spectrum, Republicans are winning elections on the premise that they are “small government,” riding the tide of Wall Street v. Main Street sentiment falsely peddled out to a frustrated electorate, tossed around as pawns in a game of consolidating private wealth. As if any politician was for small government (do I hear private military contracting, anyone?).
to read the whole thing.
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By Greg Caplan, REC Midwest Student Organizer
On February 18th REC and the Sustainable Investing Institute presented a Proxy Season Forecast. As many annual meetings are approaching, it is a great time to discuss the various issues that have been raised to companies through the medium of the Shareholder Resolution. The Proxy Season Forecast was a rundown of all of the environmental and social issues that are included in shareholder resolutions to be voted on in 2010 annual meetings of shareholders. These issues were broken down into nine categories below, but it is interesting to note that if you combine sustainability reporting, climate change, and natural resources/toxics, environmental issues account for over 40% of social issues.
Some notable resolutions up for a vote:· Hydraulic fracturing , which has 10 resolutions pending, is asking for corporations engaged in this mining technique to
report on impacts, damage mitigation, risks, but the
SEC challenges will be test of new risk approach.
Hydraulic fracturing is a resource extraction method in which fluid is injected into fractures of rock in order to force resources such as oil and natural gas out.
This increases the rate of extraction from reservoirs.
Possible environmental issues associated with this process are contamination of the water supply and inducing seismic events.
· Mountain top removal financing is another new issue, with 2 proposals on the table, but it is also being challenged with the SEC because corporations are saying that it is an ordinary business challenge, and therefore cannot be voted on by the shareholders. Mountaintop removal is the process of blasting off the top of mountains with dynamite in order to expose resources, usually coal, in the interior of the mountain. Environmental issues associated with mountaintop removal are loss of biodiversity and contamination of the air and water surrounding the area.
· In Climate Change a very interesting new development is the trend toward asking corporations to adopt 6 BICEP principles . There are 9 of these resolutions pending. The BICEP principles call for corporations to cut emissions, set goals, pressure regulators, develop clean energy options, and adapt to and mitigate climate change.
If you would like to learn more about pending shareholder resolutions you should visit ProxyDemocracy.org! It is a great site and much easier to navigate than any other site I have seen on Proxy Voting and pending votes. Shareholder resolutions are most effective when they draw a lot of yes votes, so please consider supporting these resolutions. If you would like more information about how to get involved, please contact REC at email@example.com .
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By the Dwight Hall Socially Responsible Investment Fund
New Haven, Connecticut – The Dwight Hall Socially Responsible Investment Fund has launched the first undergraduate-run socially responsible endowment investment in the country.
Developed by members of Dwight Hall’s student-run socially responsible investment (SRI) committee, the first of its kind in the country, the Market-Driven and Mission-Driven Portfolios aim to promote Dwight Hall’s social values while earning financial returns to support the Dwight Hall operating budget. The investments have been authorized by the Dwight Hall Board of Trustees.
The Dwight Hall Socially Responsible Investment Fund was created in 2007 by the Board of Trustees of Dwight Hall, Yale University’s umbrella organization for public service and social justice groups, to invest a portion of Dwight Hall’s endowment according to environmental, social, and corporate governance guidelines. As the first undergraduate-run socially responsible investment endowment in the nation, the Fund aims to bring Dwight Hall’s investment policy in line with its institutional commitment to social change. “The Dwight Hall SRI Fund is an innovative form of service that allows Dwight Hall to dedicate its resources fully to improving the communities in which it operates,” says committee chair Thomas Meyer ‘11.
Composed of about ten undergraduate students who receive mentoring from graduate students at the Yale School of Management, the Dwight Hall SRI Fund represents the nation’s first undergraduate socially responsible investment group whose returns are expected to support the institution with which it is affiliated. The Fund has become the leading student-run socially responsible investment initiatives in the country, and its combined market- and mission-based approach represents an innovative SRI model.
When compiling their Market-Driven Portfolio proposal, students considered the entire universe of socially responsible investment funds and applicable traditional funds, using funnel analysis to eliminate funds that did not meet the group’s needs. Positive and negative screening allowed students to evaluate the environmental, labor, and corporate governance policies of funds’ holdings. Funds with assets greater than $200 million under management were expected to engage in shareholder advocacy. Students also considered funds’ past performance, manager experience, duration of existence, investment strategy, and fee structure. Each fund in the portfolio is expected to perform in line with or outperform the standard benchmark of its asset class.
The Mission-Driven Portfolio consists of a $10,000 investment in a certificate of deposit at The Community’s Bank of Bridgeport, Connecticut. Chartered under the Community Reinvestment Act, the Bridgeport bank focuses on providing individuals underserved by the traditional banking community with access to credit. Both FDIC-insured and classified as a community development bank, The Community’s Bank met the group’s criteria for financial viability and social impact. The bank was selected after extensive research on investment options that would benefit the New Haven-area communities served by Dwight Hall.
Socially responsible investing refers to an investment strategy that seeks to maximize both financial return and social good, taking into account the social impact of a particular investment when making acquisition decisions. This approach has roots in investment strategies of nineteenth century American religious groups. It became increasingly prominent in the 1990s when institutional divestment of holdings with ties to South Africa—including at Dwight Hall—generated significant pressure to end apartheid. “With the support of hundreds of institutional investors representing trillions of dollars, responsible investment is playing a growing and prominent role in modern finance,” says committee member Aaron Podolny ‘12.
Following these initial investments, the Dwight Hall socially responsible investment committee will monitor the overall portfolio’s performance to ensure that it continues to meet their investment objectives. The group will also explore options for further mission-based community investments. A letter of intent has already been sent to help the First Community Bank of New Haven complete its federal chartering process. “It’s exciting to see the country’s first undergraduate SRI endowment move forward with an investment strategy that not only will help to support the programs that Dwight Hall runs but also will grow in a healthy and responsible way,” says Meyer.
The financial crisis of the last three years has exposed the harsh realities of our global economic system, including the ways we are all connected. What many thought was growth turned out to be a speculative bubble of immense proportions that was based on predatory lending practices and the proliferation of complex and nearly unintelligible financial instruments. While the rich were getting richer, and the poor poorer, our universities have turned a blind eye to the role they were playing in this get-rich-quick environment. Now, we’re all paying the price.
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What is the role of universities in the financial crisis? Universities are major institutional investors, and at the peak of the market they held 400 billion in their endowment coffers. And what, exactly, were these tax-exempt, public-benefit organizations doing during the heady years leading up to the crash? They were leading the charge into alternative investment vehicles, like private equity and hedge funds that turned out to be some of the economy’s worst offenders. They were raising tuition, constructing fancier campuses, and giving themselves raises, all while cutting tenured jobs for adjuncts, and union-busing staff efforts to organize. They made cozy contracts with corporations with poor records on labor, human rights, and the environment, producing or offering everything from student loans to soft drinks.
With little transparency or accountability to their multitude of stakeholders including their students, faculty, workforce, and host communities, colleges and universities were largely free to do as they pleased to maximize their investment returns, without regard to their investments’ effects or conflicts with their missions. Even after the crash and the extreme losses that resulted, there continues to be a lack of discussion about the effects of these decisions on our communities and our economy.
We call on our universities--students, faculty, staff, administrators, and community members—as well as taxpayers and policy makers to reevaluate the role of the American university. We must not only fund education pre-K through graduate school for free, because education is a right, but we must also ensure that our institutions are accountable to us, not only to a group of very powerful elites, mostly white men, who sit on boards of Trustees or Regents.
To find out more about how REC is working to make universities more accountable to their communities and how you can get involved email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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AU Solidarity is pushing the university to move the operating budget and a portion of the endowment into local community development financial institutions. More campaign news available here
Brown Open the Books Coalition is lobbying for increased transparency and accountability from the university administration. More campaign news available here.Columbia University
The Committee plans to spend the spring voting proxies and working with the Trustees to ensure their approval of the proxy voting guidelines drafted last year. The Committee also hopes to learn more about filing resolutions and continue to engage in corporate dialogueDartmouth College Dartmouth Students for Staff is standing with both organized and unorganized labor for greater accountability regarding recent budget cuts. The students believe the university community should play a role in determining how the cuts are enacted. More campaign news available here.Drew College
Students on the Socially Responsible Investment Committee are currently evaluating whether the school will sign on to the UN Principles of Responsible Investment, and whether or not to pursue a Revolving Green Fund. In addition, they hope to begin researching community investment this spring.are currently evaluating whether the school will sign on to the UN Principles of Responsible Investment, and whether or not to pursue a Revolving Green Fund. In addition, they hope to begin researching community investment this spring.Grinnell College
Grinell Students for Responsible Investing are going to continue to research proxies and encourage the Trustees to vote on them, especially those proxies related to gender identity and sexuality.Haverford College
The Committee is co-hosting a REC Roundtable on Shareholder Advocacy on March 18th from 4-6pm, followed by an SRI networking hour. In addition the Committee continues to express interest in filing a resolution.Loyola University Chicago
Loyola’s Shareholder Advisory Committee lead-filed a resolution on mountaintop removal financing at JP Morgan Chase. The committee is actively looking for other investors who would like to join the dialogue Chase has now opened with the shareholders on this issue. If you’re interested please contact Elaine Lehman at email@example.com.Macalester College
A broad coalition of student groups continues to push for a more comprehensive responsible investment policy.Seattle University
Students recently succeeded in convincing the university to move a chunk of money into local community investment. More information is available here. Ohio State University
Student senators are preparing a resolution to require the university to consider social responsibility as part of its investment criteria and to maintain a process for enforcing the criteria.SUNY Albany
Students are interested in pursuing a divestment campaign and have just begun researching their options.SUNY Stony Brook
Students are renewing their divestment campaign from war profiteers with an educational event with REC staff.UCLA/The UC system
Students across the UCs are joining together to push the administration to adopt proxy voting guidelines that reflect university mission and policy. Read more campaign news here.University of Chicago
Students for a Democratic Society are drafting their proposal for a CIR. They’re particularly concerned about their school’s ties to HEI. Read more campaign news at their website.University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
Net Impact graduate and undergraduate students continue to work with the administration toward setting up a committee on responsible investing. We are currently meeting with the administration to discuss o proxy voting guidelines and with student government to secure that body’s support for the effort.