April 18, 2016

Letter: University’s Application of the Kalven Report Selective, Arbitrary

The University of Chicago administration once again makes reference to the Kalven Report in defending its decision to ignore calls for social responsibility in its investments. Yet it has been clear for decades that their application of the Kalven Report is entirely arbitrary; it is used as cover for whatever decisions the administration decides to make. For example, in 2008 when the University appointed its first Vice President for Civic Engagement, she was charged by the University with the duty of lobbying for the City of Chicago’s bid to hold the 2016 Olympics. That is clearly irreconcilable with the Kalven Report’s strictures that the University “is not a lobby” and that it “cannot take collective action on the issues of the day.”

One of the other justifications that the University uses for ignoring social responsibility in investments is that it stands to lose money if it limited investments in that way. Yet Yale University, which has long had significantly better returns on investments than Chicago does, explicitly includes such matters in its investment strategy, at least with regard to global climate change.

Apart from fiscal matters, in the words of Bob Hutchins, the “university is supposed to do what is right, and damn the consequences.”

—Robert Michaelson, S.B. 1966

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