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New Coalition to Scrutinize College Investments

Published 04-21-04

Submitted by Responsible Endowments Coalition

WILLIAMSTOWN, MASS.--Students and alumni from some of America's most prestigious colleges and universities are launching a new Coalition on April 22 to advocate for responsible investment of their schools' endowments. The Responsible Endowments Coalition includes members from 22 schools with combined endowments exceeding $56 billion.

The alliance was founded by students and alumni at Duke University, University of Pennsylvania, Swarthmore College, Barnard College and Williams College. As a result of its interactive website, the network of students and alumni is rapidly expanding beyond the founding members. The website,, is the first online database/resource dedicated to responsible college and university investment.

While socially and environmentally responsible investment policies have become more prominent on college campuses, the movement is still in its infancy. The Coalition was formed in response to interest from students, alumni and administrators in learning more about how peer institutions are screening portfolios, voting shareholder proxies and investing in local communities. The goal of the alliance is to facilitate communication and advance effective investment policies and practices.

"We were surprised by the small number of schools active in responsible endowment management" said Lillie Ris, a Duke University sophomore and co-founder of the new coalition. "Less than two dozen schools currently review and vote on shareholder resolutions. These proxy votes could persuade companies to adopt policies reflecting long-standing school policies."

Along with providing online resources, the Responsible Endowments Coalition has also implemented a mentorship program to provide advice and guidance to newer members of the network. "Students can be overwhelmed by the complexity of these issues," said Mark Orlowski, a senior at Williams College and co-founder of the Coalition. "Our mentorship program helps student and alumni activists clarify their goals and manage informed campus campaigns."

Though universities are known to be inactive shareholders, students and alumni have been advocating changes in endowment investment policies for years. These campaigns have often failed because of their complexity. "We decided to organize the Coalition to help student groups at each campus that were unknowingly repeating the same research of peer institutions. They also were making similar cases for why shareholder activism is a necessary component of an institution's fiduciary responsibility," remarked Ryan Burg, a Ph.D. candidate in Business Ethics at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and Coalition co-founder.

The Coalition is planning a fall conference, "an intensive weekend of workshops led by students and alumni who have had experience running successful campaigns," according to Gretchen Collazo, a 2002 graduate of Barnard College and co-founder of the Coalition. "The goal will be to encourage students and alumni to start new campus initiatives or reinvigorate current campaigns," added Morgan Simon, a Swarthmore College senior and co-founder of the Coalition.

To date, the Coalition has been entirely a volunteer effort. Lillie Ris predicted that "as the network grows, we will need funding for staffing and outreach to other schools." The Coalition hopes to find financial support from both foundations and individual donors.

The Responsible Endowment Coalition has student and alumni members at the following schools:

Amherst College
Barnard College
Boston College
Brandeis University
Brown University
Carleton College
Columbia University
Dartmouth College
Duke University
Macalester College
Middlebury College
Mt. Holyoke College
New York University
Northwestern University
Oberlin College
Stanford University
Swarthmore College
University of Notre Dame
University of Pennsylvania
University of Texas
Williams College
Yale University

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