Over the past year, a coalition of undergraduate students has spearheaded a movement to establish a Socially Responsible Investment Committee (SRIC) on campus. The University has yet to support the idea, despite the presence of such committees at various peer institutions, as well as sustained demand for one the past few years. In last month’s Student Government elections, 76 percent of voting students endorsed the creation of an SRIC, once again conveying interest in a rethinking of University investments.
Unfortunately, the Administration has been uncooperative on this issue. Though the referendum in the election was nonbinding, it represented a serious call by the student body to consider and discuss the need for SRIC. The lack of constructive feedback by President Zimmer and the Board of Trustees has therefore been a disappointing and discouraging reaction. Recent statements have hinted that they do not accept the SRIC as it has been proposed, nor have they provided any practical compromises that would change their mind.
The SRIC is not set in stone. There has been no formal proposal detailing its framework, therefore the University should play a part in developing a functional structure. Students have done all the requisite legwork to ensure that this is a credible initiative; to merely reject or ignore the idea is an insult to their effort. We must be provided with criteria, or some set of requirements, that would make a nSRIC a palatable option for trustees and administrators.
These are problems that cannot be denied; the University does, in fact, engage in questionable investments. Many cite the example of its investment in Arch Coal, whose mountaintop mining practices in West Virginia have come under the scrutiny of the Environmental Protection Agency. The Darfur Divestment campaign, aimed at protesting investments in war-ravaged Sudan, was one of the predecessors of the current SRIC campaign. There is no shortage of dubious investments that taint the University’s image.
SRIC has always been a call for dialogue, and dialogue requires communication from Administration. It requires mutual respect and consideration from each party, as well as articulation and accommodation of each side’s ideas. The University has not displayed this accommodation, though SRIC’s supporters’ requests are not rooted in unilateral action or one-sided demands, but in a desire to better the University’s image as a responsible actor.
Students understand the need for neutrality and practicality. SRIC was proposed to ensure that those principles could be reconciled with morally responsible investment. The Administration should honor this concern and actively communicate what, exactly, it would take to make SRIC a reality. To not do so would be to shy away from the University’s promise of productive dialogue.
The Editorial Board consists of the Editor-in-Chief, Viewpoints Editors, and an additional editorial board member. Colin Bradley recused himself from the editorial process.