A Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) resolution pledging to divest from Wesleyan’s endowment, as well as the Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund Admiral Shares (Vanguard Fund), passed 27-0 with two abstentions on April 14. The funds will be re-invested sometime in the next few weeks.
WSA senators who sponsored this resolution partnered with Chair of the Committee for Investor Responsibility (CIR) Jon Skolnik ’19 to detail the commitment to divestment and determine how the funds will be re-allocated. While the CIR has worked to prompt the University to divest from fossil fuels throughout the past year, Skolnik hopes the WSA’s divestment offers extra encouragement to those involved in managing the University’s endowment to reconsider their investments.
“Hopefully this can serve as a model after which Wesleyan can alter their investment strategy and their investment considerations,” Skolnik said. “I think for an endowment’s sake, money does speak louder than words, and we’ve made money speak today.”
The WSA initially invested 25 percent of its endowment, the first student body endowment in the country, into the Wesleyan Endowment as a demonstration of commitment to the University and trust that investment decisions would be made ethically and in line with student interests. Following the University’s resistance to student demands to divest from fossil fuels, the WSA chose to divest from the University.
“The Wesleyan Student Assembly and various Wesleyan students have pushed to make the investments of Wesleyan University more ethically, socially, and environmentally responsible to match Wesleyan community values,” the WSA Endowment Committee Investment Policy and Guideline Statement reads. “However, the lack of transparency within the Wesleyan Endowment forced the WSA to officially divest from the Wesleyan Endowment.”
The resolution also details a commitment to divest from the Vanguard Fund in addition to divesting from the Wesleyan endowment. The sponsors of the resolution reported that the Vanguard Fund possesses ties to tobacco and fossil fuels, businesses entities in which the WSA does not wish to invest.
The money currently invested in the Vanguard Fund will be invested into a different socially-responsible fund, and the money invested in the Wesleyan Endowment will be invested into the Calvert Equity Fund, which aligns with the investment guidelines the WSA follows in prioritizing Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) criteria and having no ties to the tobacco and fossil fuels industries or the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
In redefining the role of the endowment to be the cap to the Student Activities Fee (SAF), the WSA is encouraged to draw from the endowment before raising the SAF. While the initial role of the endowment was to eliminate the SAF, recent projections have shown it would take over 100 years to eliminate the SAF completely, resulting in the redefinition of the endowment.
WSA president Emma Austin ’19 hopes that these divestments and new investments send a message to those involved in managing the University’s endowment about what the student body wants.
“We’re trying to promote that it’s a value that we as a student body hold, and that’s something we’d like to see from the administration going forward,” Austin said. “I think President Roth has said several times that we’re not interested in divesting from fossil fuels, and he thinks that other things would be more advantageous or would make the exact same effect in different ways, like reducing our carbon footprint. But we want to say that as a [student assembly], by divesting, we believe in this cause and feel like it’s valuable.”
Jocelyn Maeyama can be reached at email@example.com.