When the CSA polls closed Wednesday, May 20th at 11:55 p.m., there were 702 votes for disinvestment from Sudan and 169 votes against a disinvestment policy.
Even though the referendum passed with 81 percent of students for disinvestment it is unclear if the strong student voice will make a different when it comes to change. Arguably, the voting was for naught.
According to Fred Rogers, Vice President and Treasurer, “Current policy of the board is that they don’t disinvest over any issue. The College doesn’t invest by choosing stocks but by choosing managers… They [the managers] define their strategy when we hire them… [From then on the managers] have full discretion to buy and sell.”
Managers are not chosen based on criteria with regards to their moral, ethical or social activism characteristics, and new managers are not often chosen.
“You could say that they try to maximize monetary benefits for the College,” said Rogers.
Rogers says the petition should have been brought before the Carleton Responsible Investment Committee (CRIC) by the CSA or should be brought forward to this board in the future.
According to its website, the CRIC’s charter was “formed to advise the Investment Committee of the Board of Trustees via the Vice President and Treasurer regarding ethical, social, and environmental issues that arise in the management of the college endowment.”
Rogers said, “Since April 10, the Carleton Response Investment Committee [has been] meeting with students appointed by CSA, faculty, and staff to look at the way in which our investments are reflecting social values of Carleton. The principle goal is to [deal with] proxy voting. Every stock-holder is asked to vote when people put forward an initiative. Of all the companies we own stock in, we believe there are ones we should take a different position on and [the information is forwarded to the] investment committee. If the company agrees to [the changes], people don’t have to vote [on whether to change our relationship with the companies] anymore.”
The investment committee is made up of six trustees and headed by Jason Matz.
Students have been petitioning to non-CRIC members for some time now. For example, on April 10 an open letter by Isaac Hodes, Whitney Hough and Moshe Lavi was published in the Carletonian directed towards Rogers. The letter said, “As a first step, we would like to know whether or not Carleton is invested in any of the companies listed in the attached document, all of whom practically finance genocide. If so, we urge that a discussion on the ethical and financial aspects of such investments be started, with the hope that these discussions will result in the school divesting from these companies. We envision that the next step is a statement of commitment: that Carleton shall never invest in genocide.”
According to Rogers he responded to these students via email “suggest[ing] that some of the students come to the [CRIC] meeting and talk to them about it, but they did not come. The committee will not meet again this year.” CRIC will meet again during the fall.
As far as action being taken currently, “Jinai sent me this list of companies and ask me to tell her if we are invested in those companies or not…We did this two year ago and we weren’t invested in any of the companies on the list. In the next week or two, someone in the investment office.”
A similar situation happened some years back with South Africa. “As far as I know, the college never disinvested from South Africa,” said Rogers.
This leaves us with the question, if disinvestment is out of the control of the college, and in the control of the managers, what was the point of voting?
Jinai Bharucha, CSA Vice President, said “The point of the referendum was to determine if there was student support. The results will be used by CSA to help persuade the administration that there is enough student interest to pursue disinvestment.”
Whether CSA will be successful in using the student voice to promote change, and whether change is even possible given the set up of Carleton’s investment procedures, is up for debate. Updates from CSA to the student body should continue next fall.