The Committee for Investor Responsibility (CIR) recently published a document addressing the possibility of the University’s divestment from fossil fuel companies. The CIR consists of five student members: Angus McLean ’16, Michelle Li ’16, Justin Gitlin ’15, Jessica Hanway ’15, Rachel Warren ’14, and chair Matan Koplin-Green ’15. Associate Vice-President for Finance Nathan Peters is also a member.
According to Koplin-Green, the group seeks to be the link between students’ values and University investments.
“We’re working on a bunch of projects right now, all of which are concerned with being mindfully invested,” Koplin-Green said. “[We want to] be sure that the University’s investments are in line with our morals as a community.”
The members of the CIR wrote a statement explaining the purpose of their group on campus and examining their interest in exploring the possibility of divestment.
“The CIR submits proxy votes on behalf of the University, represents student activist groups dedicated to ethical investment practices, and has recently been working on a community investment project,” the statement read.
Divestment has been a highly debated topic on campus in recent months, and the document stresses the need for more research on the topic.
“Recently, various students and alumni have contacted the Committee for Investor Responsibility (CIR) expressing concern regarding Wesleyan’s investments in energy companies that extract fossil fuel resources,” the divestment report reads. “This concern stems from recognition that the consumption of fossil fuels is one of the most significant anthropogenic drivers of climate change.”
The report concludes by stating the importance of socially responsible investments.
“Like all socially motivated efforts, Wesleyan’s choice to divest from fossil fuels will not singlehandedly stop climate change, but neither will any of these other initiatives; instead they represent important steps towards creating a sustainable future,” the divestment report reads.
Warren explained the process of writing and editing the document, on which the CIR began working in the spring of 2013.
“We want to explore the notion of divestment,” Warren said. “[It’s a] buzzword: divestment. What would that really mean? We’ve done a lot of research. We talked to Anne Martin, the CIO [Chief Investment Officer] of Wesleyan, as well as Nate Peters. The document has [been] edited and been presented to both the entire CIR and the WSA [Wesleyan Student Assembly] at various points.”
McLean explained that, rather than taking a clear stance on divestment, the document focuses on weighing the possible effects of a move toward renewable investments.
“The document is an unbiased interpretation of the issues surrounding this complex matter,” McLean wrote in an email to The Argus. “It describes the different ways we could…divest from fossil fuel companies, and the impacts this could have at and beyond Wesleyan. Ultimately the document does not take a stance, but it stresses the extreme importance of giving divestment more attention.”
Koplin-Green noted the difficulty in drafting a document that seeks to represent the wide range of opinions of University students.
“We have a lot of differing opinions even within the group, but more important is the fact that we’re here to represent the campus,” Koplin-Green said. “Rather than making decisions ourselves, our main goals are transparency, publicity, getting the entire Wesleyan community to voice in because that’s the whole point.”
Prior to its project concerning divestment, the CIR was involved in efforts to increase the University’s community investment.
“[Community investment] is a little bit of a buzzword rather than an actual investment in the community,” Warren said. “Basically, what we’ve done is we convinced the University to move about a million dollars out of the general operating account and into local banks. We’ve put that money in a community bank in [Washington] D.C., in a bank in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and in Liberty bank here, and also in New York.”
The CIR has future events planned to continue the discussion around divestment.
“The CIR will be holding a panel in conjunction with Wes, Divest! in May, weighing both sides of the issue,” McLean wrote. “We need to hold an open forum and a school-wide referendum before we take a final stance on the matter, at which point we will create a proposal [for the] Board of Trustees to vote on.”
Ultimately, the CIR hopes to collect student opinions about the possibility of divestment before it goes further with its divestment research.
“We need to hear feedback from the Wesleyan community and do more in-depth financial research,” McLean wrote.