by Dave Warnock, Midwest Student Organizer

I enjoy it when we make progress.  We met with our Chief Investment Officer recently and was very encouraged by it, which is very nice considering my initial worry.  However, our CIO, it would seem, enjoys being productive.  She is by no means about embrace every transparency policy that we’ve proposed no questions asked, but I feel confident that a proposal for a Committee on Investment Responsibility can be passed this year if the proposal is reasonably intelligent and thorough.

I feel fortunate that WashU’s CIO interacts with us in such good faith, when at so many other schools I have heard stories of dealing with administrators who are less receptive.  To the extent that the administration’s attitude can be influenced by students, I would give this advice.: usually, administrators are big macher types (that’s Yiddish for “big shot”) that are usually comforted when others find value in what they do.  So anytime you have time with them when you aren’t talking responsible investment, use it to take a genuine interest in what they do.  Your ideas may seem less risky if they believe that you take what they do seriously.

I have made it my business to maintain good relations.  There is power in being reasonable at all times, for two reasons.  The first is, there is no value in escalating situations for the excitement value (see also: the building occupation at NYU), so it is worth avoiding if your goal can be attained without it.  Second, if issues do escalate, allies are more easily found by the most reasonable side.  I’m determined to make sure that reasonable side is the one that we are on.

The lesson I would leave you with is that working within the systems of power is a generally more efficient option when it can be managed.  You can change your campus by finding the people with the power to give you what you want, and just starting a cordial rapport with them.  The caveat is to make sure you are taken seriously.  By this I mean, if you can present yourself as worthy of the time your targets devote to you, then you can win their favor, or at least make them sit up and pay attention to what you want.

So, as it is, I think that the most important thing for us right now is to make sure that our proposal we plan to bring back to our CIO meets the concerns she brought up at our meeting.  She has done plenty of research on this matter, so it had better be good.  But it is also important to me that the Committee on Investment Responsibility that we are proposing should handle our concerns, the student government’s concern, and the concerns of anyone else who cares about Wash U’s commitment to investing their money responsibly. All told, things for our campaign look promising.

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