RESPONSIBLE ENDOWMENTS COALITION www.endowmentethics.org


Success Story: Creative Action at Middlebury College




Creative Action at Middlebury College

by Olivia Grugan and Moriel Rothman

Coal freeze.


He mindlessly grabbed a plate and began his dining routine at the salad bar. The student right in front of him stopped halfway through the process of bringing the salad tongs to her plate. She stood there frozen. He looked at her plate and saw three pieces of charcoal. He waited, but she didn’t budge. He turned to look around the dining hall and saw forty students frozen, mid-routine. They all had charcoal in their hands or on their plates. After five minutes frozen, they continued as if nothing had happened.


This “freeze on coal” was coordinated by Middlebury College’s Sunday Night Group (SNG), an environmental group, and the Socially Responsible Investment club (SRI). The students from these clubs have organized four creative action demonstrations in order to question the college’s endowment investment practices. They are unsatisfied with the lack of transparency in the endowment, and want to rid the endowment of any investments in companies that violate human rights or promote environmental degradation. To draw attention to this topic, they organize these weekly events on campus, both to raise awareness among the student body, and to attract the administration to the dialogue.



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In addition to the Freeze on Coal, SNG and SRI have organized three other Creative Actions. In “No Coal: The MusiCoal” students burst into sudden song at the dining hall and then marched out together singing, “Hi ho, hi ho… We want no more coal” to the tune of the Seven Dwarfs song. The next week the Cirque du Coaleil made an appearance, presenting the “marvelous spectacle of the Disappearing Endowment.” Students paraded through the dining hall, juggling, doing acrobatics and “searching” for the invisible endowment. This past week a pair of students stood blindfolded stirring a pot of “Endowment Soup” and ranting about how environmentally friendly Middlebury is while “Coal Goblins” threw in pieces of coal into the pot, “contaminating” the endowment.


Hopefully this effort to publicly expose the inconsistency between Middlebury’s mission and its investment practices will draw enough attention that students, faculty and administration all recognize the importance of the issue and work collaboratively to “clean up” the endowment. In the meantime, though, these students are having a blast.




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Campus Updates


Amherst College CIR voted proxies for the first time this year.


Barnard College The Barnard Committee on Socially Responsible Investing is currently working to redefine its mission and re-evaluate its raison d'etre in light of its endowment no longer being managed in house. The Committee is working to develop several over-arching principles that will focus and guide its activities and pursuits in the near future.



Brown University students will begin managing a $30,000 SRI fund that will invest in stocks and mutual funds. If it does well, the school will commit $20,000 more after two years. The money is coming from Brown's annual operating budget, and the students have relative autonomy over their investment decisions, although the investment office will have veto power. The first informational meeting is April 7, and hopefully they'll make our first investment in September.



Columbia University students wrote proxy voting guidelines and prepared a community investment proposal as part of a service learning course organized by the chair of their CIR. They are currently looking to file a resolution this fall and have formally launched a REC campus chapter.



DePaul University students are continuing to pressure the school to adopt weighing an RI policy as part of their Fair Business Practices Committee.


Dickinson College students are holding educational events to elicit greater student support. They continue to work on proxy voting and building a paper portfolio.


Drew University SDS won a CIR this spring to be instituted this fall.


Grinnell College Grinnell College students are again preparing to submit a proposal for an officially sanctioned RI committee along with recommendation to trustees on proxy resolutions. They are also working an awareness campaign around community-based credit unions.


Green Mountain College Students in the course Public Policy & the Environment elected to write an SRI policy as their big policy assignment this semester. The Campus Sustainability Council recently approved our formal policy request to the class. The policy will focus on establishing endowment transparency and forming a CIR. This doesn't mean the school will adopt the policy, but we're hopeful. and should know by the start of the fall semester as the cabinet and trustees will vote on the students' policy during the summer break.



Hampshire College students pressured their administration to divest from a mutual fund containing six US corporations that directly benefit from the Israeli occupation of Palestine. The administration then took to the media to deny the success of the student movement. The full story is available at www.hsjp.prg. The school also received a $500,000 donation to be invested by students according to Hampshire’s SRI policy. Students hope to pursue community investment options for this fund as well.



Haverford College CIR is voting proxies and researching the resolution filing process.


Harvard University students held a well-attended responsible endowment event in February and are continuing to pressure the school to respond to HEI’s labor abuses.



Hofstra University students are negotiating with their administration to introduce an RI policy for the endowment.


Loyola University of Chicago CIR co-filed a shareholder resolution on country selection at Chevron. This resolution is primarily focused on human rights abuses and specifically seeks to target Chevron’s presence in Burma. Loyola is also co-hosting an SRI conference in March with REC and the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility.


Macalester College students are working on a campaign to engage companies involved in coltan extraction (the mineral used in cellphones and laptops). You can reach them at easterndrcaction@gmail.com. Additionally students are working to pass a transparency proposal that would give all of the Macalester community access to the school’s proxy voting records and a list of all investments, not just direct holdings.



Massachusetts Institute of Technology students continue to push for a permanent CIR. Read more at http://www-tech.mit.edu/V128/N38/acsr.html.


Middlebury College CIR is working on proxy voting guidelines and hopes to meet with the fund manager who invests their money to determine a process for voting on the whole endowment. They are also pushing the school to sign onto the UN Principles of Responsible Investment.


Mount Holyoke College students recently met with their administration after proposing their final investment in a Community Development Financial Institution in Worcester. Due to poor mutual fund performance the students are fundraising in order to meet the minimum requirements for this final investment, mostly by asking alumnae to donate. The students are also lobbying for a password-protected site that would allow the campus community to find information about investment managers and top holdings. They plan to introduce a proposal integrating community investment into the endowment by fall 2009.


New School University students won their CIR this December after a two and a half day occupation of the school’s signature Greenwich Village building. The full story is available at www.newschoolinexile.com and www.newschoolinexile.blogspot.com. They have since hosted several events to educate themselves and the campus community about how a CIR will work as part of their efforts to bring greater democracy and community accountability to the school. They are also working on a community investment proposal.


New York University students unsuccessfully pushed for an RI policy and CIR with a two day occupation in February. Full details at www.takebacknyu.com and for commentary http://nyulocal.com/on-campus/2009/02/23/the-7-errors-take-back-nyu-made-in-their-occupation/comment-page-1/#comment-9404


Pomona College CIR is busy developing process for increased shareholder engagement and other RI tools.


Princeton University students continue to push for an RI policy that includes addressing the school’s role in supporting HEI’s poor labor practices. Read more at


http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2009/02/23/22853/ and http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2009/03/04/22968/



Rice University students have launched a campaign for an RI policy. Read more at http://media.www.ricethresher.org/media/storage/paper1290/news/2009/03/13/Opinion/Endowment.Must.Be.Handled.Responsibly-3670776.shtml



Sarah Lawrence College students have launched a campaign for a responsible investment policy.



Seattle University The Seattle University Committee on Responsible Investment is organizing an interdisciplinary Northwest Sustainability Conference which incorporates education around socially and environmentally responsible investment and revolving loan funds.  They have recently started a campus Revolving Loan Fund for Sustainability Projects and oversight committee as a sub-group of the CRI and are in the process of proposing the incorporation of a new RI policy for their endowment which includes a sustainability clause and increased investment in microfinance and community investment.



State University of NY Stony Brook students are working on a divesting from war profiteers and getting the school to adopt an RI policy.



Tufts University Students at Tufts for Investing Responsibly (STIR) won a meeting with their administration after increasing their visibility by involving alumni, staff, and a securing passage of a student government resolution. That meeting resulted in increased communication and good feelings between the administration and the existing CIR. STIR continues to advocate for increased transparency and a broader committee representation while acknowledging the administration’s concessions. http://www.tuftsdaily.com/tufts_behind_on_endowment_transparency-1.1598792 and http://www.tuftsdaily.com/endowment-transparency-allows-students-to-encourage-socially-responsible-investing-1.1600757


University of California student Regent D’artagnan Scorza has successfully presented revised proxy voting guidelines to the investment committee that students wrote as part of a Proxy Guidelines Working Group. The school is now looking into proxy voting services and researching the additional administrative costs of maintaining an RI policy.


University of California-Berkeley Members of the student government and the Graduate assembly have developed a strong and detailed draft proposal and presented it to the administrators of the UC Berkeley endowment as well as a vice-Chancellor. Their initial response has been welcoming, and they have agreed to meet with us soon to enter negotiations.


University of California-Los Angeles Students are working out of the Undergraduate student government president’s office to create a CIR at their campus foundation. They have submitted a proposal to the chair of their Board of Director’s executive committee and will present it formally in April. The campaign was also recognized by thepeoplespeak.org, a UN Foundation, and awarded a $500 mini-grant to assist the project.


University of Houston students are collecting signatures from the community to petition the UH administration in an ongoing campaign to pressure the school to divest from Sudan. More information at www.uhdivest.org.



University of Michigan have met with their administration to propose an RI policy and are building support in their community as they work out the details. Read more at http://www.michigandaily.com/content/2009-03-18/standing-investors and http://annarborchronicle.com/2009/03/22/students-press-um-on-tuition-sustainability/


University of Michigan-Dearborn Students for Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) have made great progress since the REC conference in October of last year. HEI: We attended an event in Ann Arbor for the HEI campaign, held a small-group screening of the documentary from UNITE HERE and continue to collect postcard signatures to be sent to our university’s CFO. Gaza: We are currently working with Amnesty International to host a call-in/write-in day where students will be encouraged to call and write to their congressmen regarding their inexcusable response to the situation in Gaza. Divestment: We, along with a couple other orgs, are also pursuing a new divestment resolution (to divest from companies that benefit from illegal Israeli occupation) that calls on the support of all registered student organizations on campus. Proxy voting: Most recently, we have been in contact with students from the Ann Arbor campus that are working on passing a resolution to allow proxy voting on social, political and environmental issues. We hope to join their efforts in the near future and continue collaborating with other clubs on campus to promote socially responsible investing.



University of North Dakota Students for a Democratic Society have launched a campaign for an RI policy especially targeting greening the endowment.


University of Rochester Alumni at the University of Rochester are again submitting requests for proxy votes to the University Investment Committee. They are also working with students to support their campaigns, and are looking to work with other Alumni groups around the country. SDS has also launched an Israeli occupation of Palestine divestment campaign and continues to pressure the administration to adopt a stronger RI policy. More at http://www.rightsidenews.com/200902133650/culture-wars/university-officials-struggle-to-explain-israeli-divestment-moves.html



University of Vermont students are working with their SRI working group to push for a stronger RI policy. They are preparing a presentation for the leader member of the group who is also on the Board of Trustees Investment Committee. They are also beginning to educate the student body about RI. http://socialistworker.org/2009/04/23/uvm-students-occupation



University of Virginia students met with student council leadership and are soon meeting with a faculty committee on sustainability to build support for an RI policy.


Washington University of St. Louis Students have launched a campaign for greater endowment transparency.


Wellesley College students are pushing the school for greater transparency in investment decisions and investigating what kind of policy would best fit.


Wesleyan College Wesleyan's Board of Trustees approved the creation of a Committee for Investor Responsibility (CIR) last spring.  The CIR will expand on Wesleyan's current Endowment Advisory Committee, which is all students, by adding faculty, staff, and alumni.  Students are currently working with the Investment Office and members of the Board to finalize the committee's charter and get it moving in time for proxy season!



Yale University students have developed a process and determined advisors for the Dwight Hall student-managed SRI fund. They continue to push the school to take action on HEI’s poor labor practices.



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New REC Student Organizers!

Hey everybody, this is Greg Caplan from University of Michigan and Mary Schellentrager from American University, two of the new campus organizers at REC!  We've spent this past week  in NYC training with REC, meeting awesome organizers and learning how to implement responsible investment practices at our universities.  Six activists came together from campuses across the country and met with REC staff members Cheyenna, Lauren, Angela, Jason, and Morgan as well as REC allies organizing around LittleSis and the solidarity economy.  The other students were Max Cole from Seattle University, Olivia Grugan from Middlebury College, Josh Hale from Tufts University, and Angie Bozell from University of Michigan.  After the intensive week, we are pumped to start or continue the responsible investment campaigns at our campuses!

REC Student Organizers

A campaign is like a complex game of chess...
L to R: Olivia, Mary, Greg, Josh, Angie and Max
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REC seeks 4 Student Organizers

REC is accepting applications for 4 part-time Student Organizers, please go to the Jobs page under About Us to learn more about the position and for the application! For more information, please contact Organizing Director Cheyenna Weber at organize@endowmentethics.org, or 917.930.0123. Thank you.

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Bard College's resolution leads to major changes at McDonalds!

Historic Shareholder Agreement Reached With McDonald's on Pesticide Use Reduction First Environmental/Worker Health Shareholder Resolution From College Endowment Prompts Action By Nation's Largest Potato Buyer. For the full press release

WASHINGTON, March 31 Responding to shareholder concerns, McDonald's Corporation has agreed to formally survey and promote best practices in pesticide use reduction within its American potato supply chain. As the largest buyer of potatoes in the U.S., McDonald's commitment will support progress on this important issue, which affects the environment,public health, and farm employees.

This agreement led to the withdrawal of a shareholder resolution filed by the Bard College Endowment, Newground Social Investment, and the AFL-CIO Reserve Fund. This was the first shareholder resolution focused on environmental and worker health issues ever to be filed by a college or university endowment.

Through this agreement, McDonald's has committed to: (1) survey its current U.S. potato suppliers; (2) compile a list of best practices in pesticide reduction that will be recommended to the company's global suppliers (through the company's Global Potato Board); and (3) communicate findings related to best practices to shareholders, and in the company's annual corporate social responsibility (CSR) report.
The agreement was developed in collaboration between shareholders and McDonald's, with support from the Investor Environmental Health Network. The agreement between McDonald's and shareholders can be found on the SEC website at: http://tinyurl.com/c49uof.

Bard College student Katherine Burstein, a member of the college's Committee on Investor Responsibility, said: "The Bard community believes that colleges and universities can leverage their power as investors for positive social change. Through our work with the Responsible Endowments Coalition – which works on responsible investment issues with colleges and universities across the nation – we learned about the measures companies can take to reduce the undesirable effects of pesticide use, and decided to engage McDonald's on the issue."

Newground Social Investment CEO Bruce Herbert, a member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for Children's Environmental Health, said: "Because McDonald's has such a
commanding presence in the marketplace, this commitment offers the promise of significant reductions of pesticide use -- which will benefit consumer health, as well as farm workers, local agricultural communities, and the environment."

"Consumers, workers and our environment all suffer from over-use of pesticides," said John Sweeney, President of the AFL-CIO. "As investors, we knew McDonald's could take an
important first step and we're ready to work with the company to change and grow."

Taun Toay, administrative member of Bard College's Committee on Investor Responsibility, said: "Bard College prides itself on the progressive education it affords its students. Part of such an education should involve active citizenship, including a willingness to engage
companies over issues of concern. Sound environmental policies reflect strong corporate governance and we are quite pleased that McDonald's is taking further steps in that direction."

Dr. Richard Liroff, executive director of the Investor Environmental Health Network, said:
"Leadership companies such as Sysco (which supplies Wendy's), General Mills, and Campbell's have already demonstrated that pesticide use reduction makes sense from both an environmental health and business perspective. We welcome McDonald's stepping up to the plate and look forward to supporting the company's efforts to reduce pesticide use in the future."
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Amherst REC Wins a Committee on Socially Responsible Investment!

by Alissa Ayden

It's an exciting time to be a responsible investment activist at Amherst. For the past two semesters, the Amherst College Responsible Endowment Coalition (AC-REC) has been working on getting a proposal passed that would create an Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing (ACSRI) at the College. AC-REC formed last Spring as a coalition of about fifteen activist-oriented student groups on campus. We all signed a joint letter to the President of the College, Tony Marx, outlining our intentions and had several meetings with him.. These meetings led to our first draft of a proposal which focused mainly on proxy voting. We submitted our proposal to the College's Investment Office and then summer came and the coalition members temporarily went our separate ways.When school began again, we had renewed energy. I had just attended a two-week training with REC and become a NE Student Organizer. I knew that there was more to responsible investment than just proxy voting; there's corporate letter writing, co-filing and filing shareholder resolutions, portfolio screening, community development investments, community (development) financial institutions, socially conscious, sustainable, and environmental investments and so much more. I returned to Amherst invigorated. We immediately drafted a more robust proposal and had several meetings with the College's Investment Analyst. Communicating (through middle-people) with the Board of Trustees was difficult and we felt that our views were not being adequately expressed because we had not been given the chance to actually talk to the Trustees about our proposal.

Finally, AC-REC was able to have a private meeting with several members from the Board of Trustees Investment Committee and the Treasurer of the College. The following day, the Trustees voted on a modified version of our proposal: we officially had a Committee! The ACSRI will advise the College on how all proxies containing ethical, social, and environmental should be voted and our website will contain a list of all common and preferred stock held directly by the College, as well as a list of the investment firms engaged to manage the assets of the endowment. We are having our first "Town Hall: An Open Forum On the Endowment" next week and are actively recruiting people to serve on the ACSRI. Hours of research, consensus based decision-making, proposal writing, meetings, and e-mails have finally paid off, and we look forward to continually pushing the College to broaden the scope of our socially responsible investment practices.
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After a Great '08, Seattle University's CRI Looks Forward to a Divine '09!

by Maura Rendes, REC student organizer, Pacific Northwest

After just months of campaigning back in the spring of 2008, the Seattle University Committee on Responsible Investment was approved to get rolling in the fall of '08..

Students got pumped up at the REC National Conference in October and spent the remainder of the quarter spreading the word about SRI. Info sessions and collaboration with other student organizations gave the term CRI a name on campus, but it wasn’t until November that CRI was given a face… several faces actually.
We teamed up with the Rainforest Action Network and Greenpeace to head up the Seattle projects for the National Days of Action Against Coal and Coal Finance. Soon we had activists from the Seattle Backbone Brigade, Cascade Climate Network and Cool State Sierra Student Coalition asking to join us in our efforts to stand up against Citi’s and Bank of America’s financing of coal power and mountain-top removal mining. A week of tabling on campus and dispersing pamphlets educated SU students about the issue and hundreds of signatures and photos for our petitions educated the financial institutions about our disapproval of their investment practices. By Friday we held a peaceful protest and marched from the Seattle Federal Building to the Seattle Bank of America headquarters. Banners, stickers and our enormous climate change polar bear, Snowflake, informed the public of the banks’ irresponsible practices.

After a successful campaign we began officially accepting applications for CRI. Just two weeks after the National Days of Action, Bank of America announced that it was phasing out its financing of mountain-top removal mining!

Now that CRI is official, just think what we can do! As a brand new committee, SU CRI is looking forward to creating a responsible investment policy for the entire network of Jesuit universities and reallocating a small percentage of the endowment into a Community Development Credit Union. We are looking forward to hosting a NW SRI conference in the spring and spreading the word about REC throughout the region. If you have questions or are interested in collaborating with SU, please feel free to contact Maura Rendes.
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Bringing Socially Responsible Banking to Your Wallet

by Ellie Kahn, senior at NYU

Most of us make daily purchasing decisions based on our ethics. We buy local, organic, grass-fed, recycled, biodegradable, fair trade —and the list goes on. But one major financial decision that gets overlooked is banking. We sign up with whatever bank happens to come on campus, in the hope that our university has invited them there, and would not lead us astray. Sometimes you even get a free tote bag and lots of pens. But as students demanding socially responsible investment from our universities, what decisions are we making in our daily life to support this goal? How can we ask our university to invest responsibly if we are not doing so ourselves?
Why are banks interested in our money? Students generally have lots and lots of debt, and that they generally pay it back with interest. Similarly our college degrees mean we're more likely to get fancy jobs, a fancy mortgage and then produce more kids who will go to college and repeat the cycle. While our $150 in the bank may pale in comparison to the billions of dollars of university endowment money, our say actually matters to commercial banks. For us, it makes a much smaller impact than the consumer choices we already make.

So what choices do we have? Fortunately there are many banks out there with ethical policies. Many smaller banks have mission statements directly impacting the local community, especially community banks and community investment credit unions. They're perfectly safe and have the added benefit of being locally owned and operated rather than being controlled by global shareholders far removed from the community’s economy.

Just before the financial crisis hit, I decided to help students in New York become aware of the importance of their personal banking and possible solutions to banking problems. I had a Bank of America card weighing down my wallet, so I decided to start there. I did some research about Bank of America's practices and where it invested its money, or rather MY money. I discovered there was a national campaign against Bank of America and Citigroup based on their financing of coal, from the destructive mountaintop removal mining, to the construction and maintenance of new coal plants. The environment is a passionate subject for many students these days, so I figured I'd center my campaign on this issue. I also received support from the Rainforest Action Network and Greenpeace who were already involved in this struggle. Then the financial crisis occurred, which made it all the easier to show the big commercial banks are not investing our money responsibly.

I had done my research on the negatives of commercial banking, but was left with the question: where CAN I bank? Through the help of REC I managed to get in touch with The National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions [NFCDCU], and thus found one near my university, NYU. I walked into the Lower East Side People's Federal Credit Union, to wait in line amongst a diverse group of locals. I had a lovely conversation with a banker there, who was so excited about the prospects that she offered to come on campus virtually whenever I wanted. I signed up for an account on the spot. We set a date, reserved a table in the lobby of our student center, and set to work creating an event where students could sign up on the spot. Then I promoted it by going to every environmental, social justice and community group on campus.

Unfortunately there is a lot of financial illiteracy, even amongst college students, so we prepared information to help educate people. We called out "Green Your Greenbacks" and other fun slogans and handed out flyers.  A few people signed up for bank accounts and many more stopped to ask questions, a huge feat in New York, where people always gaze disinterestedly at the ground and steamroll through crowds. Overall I'd say the event was a great success. At the end of the event, the people from the credit union gave me a big hug and invited me to come back and help them in the future. I think that when I hold the event again next semester more  students will be ready to sign up to invest responsibly.
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