Committee Lobbies to Reform University Investments
The New School’s academic committee for investment responsibility is drafting a set proposals that would look to ensure the university’s investment policies advocate and do not undermine issues such as climate change, environmental pollution and animal rights, among others.
Many companies use proxy voting, the process by which shareholders are allowed to vote on resolutions. The guidelines suggest that when companies in which the New School is a shareholder hold a proxy vote pertaining to areas of environmental sustainability, those voting on behalf of the school vote for the more sustainable or environmental-friendly option. Another potential aspect of the reforms would endorse investment in banks and credit unions with ethical lending practices.
The ACIR hopes to have a final draft of changes to the existing proxy voting policy completed by April, before passing it on to the board of trustees’ investment subcommittee for review and adoption.
ACIR member and New School for Social Research student senator Chris Crews said the proposals could have long-term implications and would enhance The New School’s commitment to its values.
“If we are able to get the proxy voting guidelines passed, it would be the first time in the school’s history that we have adopted investment policies which seek to unify our school’s philosophy with our endowment investment decisions,” Crews said.
While Crews praised the potential effects of the proposals, he acknowledged that they would not serve as a set of requirements for the board of trustees to follow in making investment decisions.
“It’s not comprehensive of any and all social issues,” Crews said. “But we feel it is a good start, and will be a major improvement from the existing proxy voting policy.”
On February 18, The New School worked with the Responsible Endowments Coalition, a group advocating responsible economic investment by universities in the United States, to co-host a national conference at Wollman Hall. The meeting featured university students and representatives from across the country and promoted the ethics of responsible investment by universities.
Collectively, universities in the United States have invested more than $350 billion of endowment funds into the economy. The new voting guidelines, while affecting The New School directly, are indicative of a wider examination of how national universities choose to spend their money.
“I think, broadly, universities have a lot of money, and they can have a lot of positive impacts on the [economic] environment,” said Dan Apfel, executive director of the Responsible Endowments Coalition.
Apfel said he believed the proxy voting reforms would signify The New School’s commitment to responsible economic investment.
“Socially, if universities as investors take their mission and their values into account when they’re making their investment decisions, they can help influence companies that they’re shareholders in to be better corporate citizens,” Apfel added.