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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