The recent student initiative, taking the form of a College Council (CC) divestment referendum, was a step in the right direction for students’ ability to influence College policy. We believe it is important for the school’s administration and Board of Trustees to pay attention to student interests and opinions, and the passing of the divestment referendum represents the ability for students to voice their concerns freely at the College. Moreover, the immense support of the referendum from the student body reflects a shared interest that should be addressed by the College and its administrators. We also believe presenting the passed referendum to the Advisory Committee on Shareholder Responsibility (ACSR) is a promising opportunity to allow a knowledgeable organization of faculty, staff and students to bridge the gap between the Board of Trustees and the student body.
The Record believes that the role of the ACSR as an intermediary between student initiatives and the Board of Trustees is incredibly beneficial. A majority of the members of the student body are unaware of the inner workings of Trustee meetings, and allowing a separate entity to create a formalized proposal based off of popular student sentiment will greatly increase the chance of the student initiative’s success. We also believe that allowing a committee to focus its time and energy on collecting and synthesizing relevant financial information, as well as on presenting the moral argument, to present to the Board of Trustees will ensure the best communication of student views. The impetus should be on the committee to flesh out a plan in accordance with student opinion to properly present it to the Board of Trustees.
We recommend that the proposal created by the ACSR not include information regarding both divestment and the reduction of the College’s carbon footprint. Not only are the two topics unrelated, but including both in a proposal to the Board of Trustees will diminish the effectiveness of the referendum. Moreover, we believe including plans for carbon footprint reduction, though those plans are indeed important, will distract from the goal of divestment at large. If the goal of the referendum was to represent student sentiment on the topic of divestment, presenting the Trustees a proposal including alternatives to reduce the College’s carbon footprint will reduce the productivity of the student initiative, as those plans may be interpreted as an alternative rather than an addition to divestment.
We at the Record also recommend that members of the ACSR communicate with Trustees at peer institutions who have already divested their endowments. Although the College does invest differently than many of its peers, speaking with members of committees who have already done the research and carried out the process of divestment could prove to be extremely advantageous. This collective influence and advice would provide examples of feasibility and sustainability to the Board of Trustees.
We acknowledge that the process of presenting student views on divestment to the Board of Trustees will take time, and that it will be full of cooperation and compromise. However, we believe that the ACSR can be effective with a clear goal of presenting popular student sentiment to the Board of Trustees. We at the Record believe its proposal’s message should be potent and representative of the student body’s wishes to encapsulize the overwhelming success of the CC referendum.