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.
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.
4. Read up on the college’s recent investments at the The Oberlin Transparency Project website: https://sites.google.com/site/theoberlintransparencyproject/home