Oberlin Students and Alumni Demand Accountability, Not Corporate Criminal Trustees

In the wake of the revelation last week that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has filed financial fraud charges against Oberlin Trustee and Investment Committee Chair Thomas Kutzen, students from Oberlin's Responsible Investing Organization and Oberlin Alumni for a Responsible Endowment issued the following statement condemning the corporatization of the university and calling for greater transparency and value alignment in Oberlin's process for selecting new trustees.

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To the Oberlin College Board of Trustees,

In consideration of the criminal allegations for fraud brought against Oberlin College Trustee and Investment Committee Chair Thomas Kutzen by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), we, the undersigned, call for increased transparency in the selection process for board members and in the overall governance practices at Oberlin College. We expect Oberlin to pursue greater diversity in the search for future board-elected trustees by intentionally reaching out to the marginalized communities, which the college claims to represent, and members of non-financial industries.

Chief Investment Officer reported July 5, 2015, that the US Securities and Exchange Commission accused Thomas Kutzen, founder of AlphaBridge, of breaching his fiduciary duties to clients. As reported, Thomas Kutzen is personally named in two of the six alleged violations by the SEC and has accepted the SEC punishments.

Our college leaders have been incentivized to “follow the money,” which has come at the expense of responsible management and governance that adheres to Oberlin’s supposed mission of fostering social consciousness. As members of the Oberlin College Community, we hold this institution, and those governing it, to the highest standards of responsibility and accountability. We expect the college to respond proactively to these allegations by seeking a more transparent and socially responsible path.

The influence of Oberlin’s endowment extends far beyond the college; Oberlin’s investments play a role in the global economy. With this in mind, students and alumni have long fought for our finances to reflect the values and principles that Oberlin was founded upon. In the name of fiduciary responsibility, students have been told time and again that the transparency and involvement they demand is not possible. The fact that the head of the investment committee was charged with fraud further amplifies our concerns regarding Oberlin’s lack of financial transparency. We call for greater effort by the Board and administration to be more transparent in governance and financial matters.

If our board demography is to reflect Oberlin’s values and institutional priorities, the college must demonstrate its commitment to diversity.  We call on Oberlin College to actively expand its board membership to reflect the narratives of individuals it claims to represent such as trans, queer, low income communities, and communities of color. We also expect the Board to seek members outside the financial sector to fill the next available board-elected trustee position.

Oberlin College boasts a proud history of pushing against the status quo and daring to be true to its values, its students, and its alumni -- even when such a stance was unattractive or unprofitable. Why should this time be any different?

 

Signed:

The Responsible Investing Organization
Oberlin Alumni for a Responsible Endowment
Joseph Sheeran '12

to sign this letter - email rio.oberlin@gmail.com

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