It was our personal experience introducing a divestment proposal to Barnard College that convinced us of the need for an ACSRI.
On October 16, 2017, “Hedge Clippers,” an advocacy group focused on the financial impropriety of hedge funds, sent a letter to President Sian Beilock revealing that Barnard is invested with a hedge fund called “Baupost Group.” At that time, “Baupost Group” held $911 million worth of Puerto Rican debt, and was actively calling for island’s government to enact austerity measures.
The term “austerity” refers to governmental efforts to decrease public expenditure in order to reduce budget deficits. We, the Columbia University Roosevelt Institute, believe unequivocally that deep cuts to vital government services such as education, infrastructure and healthcare not only stymies long-term economic growth, but also hurt the life chances of the Puerto Rican people.
Moreover, we believed then, as we believe now, that Barnard should not profit from austerity on Puerto Rico, particularly in light of the human rights travesty of Hurricane Maria. Thus, members of the Columbia Roosevelt Institute presented before the Barnard Student Government Association (SGA) in March, 2018, requesting their support in bringing a divestment proposal forward to senior members of the Barnard administration.
Despite Barnard’s long and storied history of student activism surrounding socially responsible investing, Barnard yet lacks a codified process by which members of the community can raise concerns about Barnard’s investments. Decisions about whether or not to bring a given divestment proposal forward to the Board of Trustees are made internally by a small group of Barnard administrators and senior staff. In making their decision, these individuals do not consult the Barnard community, including students and faculty. Moreover, the essential criteria against which students’ divestment proposals are being evaluated is often ambiguous. Finally, without a clear point of access for student groups interested in submitting divestment proposals, the process can be long, drawn-out and onerous.
We believe an Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing (ACSRI) would bring some much-needed clarity, transparency and accountability to this process, and you should too.
For more, visit:
“LETTER TO UNIVERSITY ENDOWMENTS REGARDING BAUPOST GROUP PUERTO RICO DEBT.” Hedge Clippers et al. to President Sian Block. October 16, 2017. In Hedge Clippers. October 16, 2017. Accessed October 6, 2018. http://hedgeclippers.org/letter-to-university-endowments-regarding-baupost-group-puerto-rico-debt/.
“What Is Austerity?” The Economist. May 20, 2015. Accessed October 06, 2018. https://www.economist.com/buttonwoods-notebook/2015/05/20/what-is-austerity.