REC's 6th Annual National Conference

Written by Olivia Grugan, Student Organizer, Middlebury College

Students carried signs that read, “Stop HANDING our money to HEI” and “Our Endowment. Our Responsibility. Our Power.” Others led the group in protest cries saying, “When working conditions are obscene, it’s Penn’s duty to intervene.” Yet others carried a letter addressed to the President of Penn University and signed by students from over 20 colleges and universities, representing states from Washington to Vermont. This letter demanded that Penn divest from HEI, a hotel investment group that owns and operates hotels across the country, but whose labor practices are unjust and inhumane. What united these students was their common concern for the way educational institutions invest their endowments.

REC’s 6th national conference was much more than an opportunity for students from across the country to show their support for Penn’s divestment from HEI. It was an educational environment where we—the 70 attendees—could share ideas, tactics, research tools and enthusiasm for Socially Responsible Investment. During the three-day-long conference, we were able to attend workshops presented by REC staff, fellow student activists, and professionals in the field of investment. Workshops ranged form how to combat climate change through investments, to community investment strategies, to the alternative economics and the solidarity economy. Training for Peace and the Ruckus society made special presentations on creating effective tactics and strategy and on group dynamics. All throughout the conference there were opportunities to strategize in small groups and learn from one another. The students from Yale shared with us how they had set up a student-run endowment, while students from Sarah Lawrence and Washington University shared ideas on how to work within the bureaucracy of one’s school to bring about change. At the end of each day, we headed back to the hostel just out of town to continue our discussions from the day and develop quick friendships with one another.

For me, the most encouraging aspect of the conference was the atmosphere of enthusiasm and potential. Rather than individual facets of an amorphous movement, we were united as one body of students dedicated to change through responsible investment. I think for many of us it was the first time we were able to put a face and a name to the movement. We were delighted to find people who understood what we were talking about when we said, “SRI,” “hedge funds,” and “proxy voting.” And we walked away from the weekend with not just a notebook full of notes and new information, but an array of contacts for future organizing.
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Student Run SRI Endowments

The proverbial holy grail of responsible investing for endowments is a proactive strategy to target responsible assets and deploy capital to promote them and hopefully earn a return. The issue with this strategy is the general consensus that they will underperform traditional investment strategies by limiting the scope. Although most universities have responsibility deeply embedded in the verbiage of their missions, the fear of sub-par return on their endowments has caused them all to abandon their principles in their investment strategy.

One solution to this dissonance is to provide concrete examples of Socially Responsible Investment funds that either match or exceed the returns of traditional funds. At the REC conference last weekend, Thomas Meyer presented a case study of how a dynamic group of Yale students has worked with the system to try and provide a concrete example for endowment fund managers everywhere.

As the students set out to build their fund they developed strong alliances with the board of trustees of a separate smaller endowment as well as investment professionals in order to gain legitimacy. Meyer commented that it is important to be perceived as professionally as possible when working with the board of trustees, especially surrounding investment decisions.

After a long process, the students were granted a $50,000 fund “focused on socially responsible investing” that would have “active participation of the students of Dwight Hall [the smaller endowment invested with Yale University]”. The students have spent over a year planning their investment strategies, and just a few weeks ago placed their first investment. Hopefully the success of this fund inspires managers across the country to begin incorporating SRI into their investment strategy!
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L3Cs: New business structure opens up possibilities for SRI

written by Jay Cassano, New England Student Organizer

In April of 2008 Vermont became the first state in the country to approve the low-profit limited liability company (L3C) as a legal business structure. Throughout 2009 the L3C business entity has been growing in recognition, having been ratified by the states of Utah , Michigan , Wyoming , and Illinois . It is also currently being considered by state legislatures in North Carolina, Georgia, Oregon, North Dakota, Tennessee, Montana. In addition, the L3C structure has been ratified by the Crow Indian Nation and the Oglala Sioux Tribe. The fact that Native American communities, which are easily some of the most disenfranchised peoples in the United States, want to make use of the L3C business entity shows that it has significant potential as a vehicle for social good.

The L3C is legally very similar to a limited liability corporation (LLC). LLCs were designed to provide a flexible business structure for small businesses that would have some of the benefits of partnerships and sole proprietorships while limiting the financial risks to members of the LLC. The main difference between L3Cs and LLCs is that L3Cs streamline the process of meeting the requirements for the IRS's Program-related Investment (PRI) regulations by being specifically structured in their legal code to already meet those regulations. PRIs are a class of investments that are generally used by private foundations in order to meet their tax exempt requirements; private foundations are required to either donate five percent of their assets to social programs or to invest five percent in socially beneficial program-related investments, which are investments that would not be made by an investor whose primary motivation was financial return.

The organization that is promoting the adoption of the L3C, Americans for Community Development , describes the L3C as “a new form of limited liability company which combines the best features of a for-profit LLC with the socially beneficial aspects of a nonprofit. It is a for-profit with a nonprofit soul.” L3Cs must include in their charter that their purpose is primarily to be socially beneficial and that earning profit is secondary to their social mission. Some anticipated uses of the L3C structure include newspapers, museums, symphonies, recreational facilities, and certain types of community development projects.

Because L3Cs are allowed to earn a profit, they are not 501(c)3 nonprofit charitable organizations. This means that they will not be attractive to individual donors looking only for tax exemption. But the strength of L3Cs is that they do not compete for these donations, but rather open up a completely underdeveloped field for institutional investors such as private foundations. Because of the complexity and investment of time involved for investors to file and process paperwork for PRIs, many private foundations do not currently make use of PRIs, preferring to meet their exempt requirement through donations to 501(c)3s. Because the L3C is designed to specifically comply with PRI regulations, foundations making PRIs in L3Cs are allowed to skip the bulk of the paperwork involved with filing a PRI. In this way L3Cs position themselves strategically between nonprofits and for-profits. Another advantage of L3Cs is that they are legally allowed to tranch investments, which enables different investors to choose different levels of risk and reward.

In the socially responsible investment movement, L3Cs are mostly useful for private foundations that would prefer to meet their exempt requirements through PRIs in order to gain a small financial return rather than donating 5% of their assets to nonprofit charities. Nevertheless, we should investigate the possibilities of utilizing L3Cs as an investment vehicle for college and university endowments. One possibility is that public universities whose state funding is supplemented with an endowment managed by a private foundation could encourage their foundation to invest in L3Cs. In addition, because L3Cs are required to serve social good but are allowed to earn a profit, they could prove to be an interesting model for providing employment in low-income communities through a for-profit community development venture. These sorts of community development L3Cs might end up serving a greater social good than many charitable nonprofits by providing meaningful employment to disenfranchised peoples. Private colleges and universities without foundations attached to them could use L3Cs as a vehicle for allocating 1% of their endowment in community investments . This would give another option for community investment besides revolving loan funds. L3Cs are still very new and are not yet widely utilized, but in the long term they could prove to be an important component of a diverse socially responsible investment portfolio.

Further reading:

You can reach Jay Cassano at:

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Is Socially Responsible Investment a Good Business Decision?

Written by Greg Caplan, Student Organizer

Socially responsible investing, or SRI, is a strategy of investing that seeks to maximize financial returns just like every other investment strategy, but also attempts to maximize social good. SRI is becoming very popular recently, accounting for about eleven percent of the $25.1 Trillion of assets under management as of 2007 according to, but SRI is not a new concept. Religious institutions have engaged in SRI with their funds as well as encouraging their followers to invest responsibly for hundreds of years. Religious groups have attacked issues such as slavery and workers rights through investment decisions on a strictly moral ground.

In the 1960’s SRI began to grow with the use of negative screens. Negative screens are devices investment professionals use to restrict investment in companies that engage in various activities such as arms production, tobacco, gambling, and liquor. Negative screens have also been used in divestment campaigns, most notably to end apartheid in South Africa.

Although many people contend that negative screens and SRI is a bad financial decision because it limits the investors, recent data has begun to show that may not be the case. Many reports are emerging that show SRI funds outperforming non-SRI funds, and many investors are beginning to understand responsibility as a metric for financial success. Not only does responsibility represent a major risk to organizations due to evolving market drivers such as climate change and resource scarcity, but governmental changes also have the potential to catapult responsible companies into financial success with programs such as sustainable spending from the stimulus, corporate governance reform due to the crisis and cap and trade programs.

Since SRI is not only a moral choice, but also a financial benefit, more institutions will now hopefully recognize it as a necessity. Not only will this earn them better returns, but also make the world a better place!

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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.


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 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

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 and 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 and for commentary

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 and

Rice University students have launched a campaign for an RI policy. Read more at

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. and

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, 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

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 and

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

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.

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, 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:

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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