An Open Letter to the Search Committee for Vice President for Finance and Administration

 

To the Committee,

Thank you for hosting an open listening session regarding the search for a new Vice President of Finance and Administration this past Monday, February 11. We greatly appreciate the opportunity to have our concerns addressed in a public setting. As could be seen by a shortage of chairs and food, general interest among students in the recruitment process for this position is high. Our choice for the new Vice President of Finance will have significant long term implications for Oberlin, and we believe it should be made by a committee that represents Oberlin’s diverse community.

The Vice President of Finance holds a significant portion of the financial decision-making power at Oberlin. The position oversees the Office of Student Accounts, Human Resources, the Office of Environmental Health and Safety, and many other departments. This position also has influence through its oversight of the Investment Office, which is responsible for handling our institution’s endowment, and the Office of Environmental Sustainability, creating a direct link to our commitment to environmental sustainability with our financial decisions.

At the meeting, students brought up a number of issues as well as three specific requests:
1.  Invite two students to sit on the search committee as full members.
2.  Include specific language in the job description that mentions Oberlin’s commitments to sustainability and responsible banking and investing.
3.  A response to this letter, in a timely, public manner, such as The Source.

We look forward to continuing a dialogue with the Committee.

Respectfully,

RIO (Responsible Investing Organization)
Student Senate
SLAC (Student Labor Action Coalition)
SFC (Student Finance Committee)
Oberlin Animal Rights
SURF (Students United for Reproductive Freedom)
RPC (Recycled Products Coop)
Office of Student Treasurer
Green EDGE Fund
Ohio PIRG (Ohio Public Interest Research Group)
SFP (Students for a Free Palestine)
Anti-Frack
Peace and Conflict Studies

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VP of Finance Listening Session

February 11, 2013: Wilder 112 — Craig, the representative from OPUS, the outside agency guiding the hiring process, noted that the most important quality they’re looking for in a candidate is the ability to think long-term. He emphasized sustainability; the ideal candidate will plan ahead and work with administration so that Oberlin maintains its place in the future and remains a school that people will (and can) return to. Additional position requirements include: ten plus years of experience, experience in an academic setting, and expertise in a wide range of financial areas. The job description is still being tweaked. Craig reminded attending students that there are two important things to keep in mind throughout the search process: (1) confidentiality and 2) trust in the process as being transparent and careful. The process of hiring someone for this position was outlined in the following way:

  1. Develop an accurate, attractive position description with complete responsibilities and descriptors
  2. OPUS will bring the search out to the market and raise the awareness of potential candidates.
  3. Once applications are received, OPUS will gauge whether they meet core requirements and if they would work well with the Oberlin students and community.
  4. Introduce candidates to the search committee.
  5. Based on the search committee’s recommendations, OPUS will choose candidates to move forward and conduct face-to-face interviews.
  6. A candidate will be chosen in July. (OPUS hopes to beat this timeline.)

Students attending the listening session expressed a number of prerequisites for candidates:

  • A commitment to environmental and progressive social values;
  • Experience with CDFIs, ESG criteria, and/or credit unions;
  • Aside from identifying with Oberlin, embodying a “progressive atmosphere” in their work and life;
  • Accommodating student values and opinions into how Oberlin’s money is managed;
  • Using the school’s finances and resources to improve the quality of life for Oberlin students (i.e. increasing the number tenured professors);
  • Sensitivity to issues that involve the college-town relationship;
  • An inclusion of current Oberlin employees in the search (will be occurring).

Many students were concerned that student involvement in the search process would be minimal (though student interest is high). Craig explained that at previous institutions, there have been issues with students seeing the process through to the end and Professor Tallman feared serving on the committee would be a poor use of students’ time. A show of hands at the session of about fifteen indicated that many would be willing to fully commit to involvement in the process. Proposals were made for both an inclusion of at least two students on the search committee and forming a student advisory committee. Craig and Professor Tallman said they would solicit student involvement, but did not clarify how. The search committee and OPUS are also open to suggestions on how to include community members in the process.

Attendees were also worried about transparency and accountability to students throughout the search process. The position description will be posted in various public locations (the Oberlin website, college publications, etc.). A student suggested that the search committee and OPUS respond to the concerns raised during the listening session in The Source or The Review (this is being taken into consideration).

– Lauren Vandemortel

Recap from RIO General Interest Meeting

On Saturday I went to the Responsible Investing Organization’s general interest meeting. I had seen the “Break Up With Your Bank” flyers around school last semester, but hadn’t kept up with their efforts. The planned speaker, from the Responsible Endowments Coalition (REC) was delayed by the storm hitting the East Coast, so the meeting was held more as a teach-in about why RIO formed and what it is doing. RIO members spoke about the tremendous impact we as students can have through both divestment (not investing in certain companies for social or environmental reasons consistent with Oberlin’s history and progressive reputation) and shareholder resolutions (changing companies from the inside)–not only as a college that can and needs to do more to support the local Oberlin community, but also as part of a wider movement to invest endowments responsibly.
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A Very Short Guide to How Oberlin Invests The Endowment ($670 million)
The Board of Trustees has an Investment Committee, which then chooses money managers to invest in equity funds through the college’s Investment Office. Currently, the policy of the Investment Committee is simply to invest in ways which yield the greatest financial returns.
What RIO is working on this semester 
1. Get $50 million invested in Community Development Financial Institutions, which have a local and sometimes regional focus. Credit unions are an example of CDFIs.
2. Help select a new CFO who is committed to responsible investment.
3. Continue the Break Up With Your Bank campaign across campus
4. Hold a policy symposium, with members of the investment committee, faculty, students, and community members, to create a written commitment to responsible investment and possibly re/instate a committee to oversee the policy.
5. Make a Responsible Senior Contribution fund, to which graduating seniors could donate with the stipulation that it be used for responsible investments.
Also discussed:  Coalition-building with other student organizations, potentially including the One Town Campaign
 Making a fund for the OhECU referral money ($25 for both referrer and refer-ee)
What Can You Do?
1. On Monday 2/11 at 12 pm in Wilder 112, the new CFO search committee is holding a listening session open to everyone. The CFO (Chief Financial Officer) is tasked with overseeing the the operating budget, which is the “liquid” money the college uses day-to-day (currently about $200 million), and could be an important ally in the push for responsible investment.
2. On Tuesday 2/12 from 9-10 pm in the AJLC (upstairs or in the conference room off the lobby depending on number of people), RIO is holding their first meeting of the semester.
3. Look into where your money is and what your bank/credit union does. Many students open up an account with OhECU for money earned through campus jobs, even if their tuition money is in a larger bank fund.
–Emily Clarke

Crime After Crime Screening

Come to the Crime After Crime documentary screening next Tuesday, February 12th at 7:30 in Craig Lecture Hall followed by a Q&A with filmmaker Yoav Potash and Deborah’s attorney Joshua Safran in-person. Crime After Crime tells the dramatic story of the legal battle to free Debbie Peagler, an incarcerated survivor of domestic violence. Over 26 years in prison could not crush the spirit of this determined African American woman, despite the wrongs she suffered, first at the hands of duplicitous boyfriend who beat her and forced her into prostitution, and later by prosecutors who used the threat of the death penalty to corner her into a life behind bars for her connection to the murder of her abuser. To watch a trailer of the documentary visit http://crimeaftercrime.com/

 

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The movie is hosted by Program Board, Forum Board, The Peace and Conflict Studies Connections Group, The Oberlin College Dialogue Center, The Office of Religious Student Life, and Hillel. 

Welcome to Oberlin Unite (The Blog)

This blog exists as a tool for progressive organizations and people in Oberlin.  It is a great place to publish stories, share thoughts, and begin conversations.  While it may grow and evolve and change in the future, it will start like this.

If you want to post something, send your piece to David and droswell [at] oberlin [dot] edu, or Ike at imccreer [at] oberlin [dot] edu.  If you want to be added as an admin, or a permissioned poster, also email David or Ike.

Things to put on here do not need to be clean, fleshed out, perfect.  This is public on the internet, so keep that in mind.