Questioning investments

Eliza Adelson & Morgan DeBaun | Op-Ed Submission

March was international women’s month, and while this month is typically dedicated to bettering women’s statuses around the world, we have decided to take a local approach to this month.

Our University, while lauded for it’s sustainable foodstuffs, green engineering and academic excellence, has yet to be evaluated on its investment practices and how they affect women. Where do our trusty Wash. U. sweatshirts come from? What about the tomato ban?

We recently have investigated whether we are a socially responsible campus. We met with individuals around campus and these individuals demonstrated their support of fair labor practices around the world in our buying and selling practices. Our tomatoes and bananas are safe, healthy and sustainable. But what about our investments?

The recent Senate Resolution In Support of Socially Responsible and Student Involved Endowment Decisions passed on Wednesday, and while it encourages administrators and the like to live up to the University’s mission statement, we must further consider who we invest in, where we invest and how our money is being used in the global context. As socially responsible adults who are privileged in both our knowledge and potential, we must be informed consumers and students.

What is socially responsible investment (SRI)? SRI allows institutions like colleges and universities to ensure that their investments align with their values. Endowment transparency is the first step to SRI. As long as members of the University community have access to information concerning how the endowment is invested, they can decide if they believe the University’s investments align with its values and mission statement.

We are privileged to have one of the largest U.S. endowments, and at more than $4.2 billion, we owe it to our futures to regulate how our money will be spent once we graduate and donate to the University. Washington University Investment Management Company (WUIMC) makes investment decisions to maximize returns on investment with no regard to the societal repercussions of the invested companies. Yale, Columbia, Duke and Brown, among other comparable institutions, have socially responsible investment oversight.

When the tomato ban was first developed, students were upset, frustrated and wanted their salsa. But after understanding the purpose of this ban, we accepted it. In a March 19 Student Life article, freshman Sarah Garay did not even miss her tomatoes because she said she understood the reasons that the University did not have them. “Don’t get me wrong, I like tomatoes, but it just wasn’t a priority and I understand the context [of why we didn’t have them],” Garay said. We can adapt to socially responsible spending, and with this resolution, we finally will.

Soon, we will all understand the context of this Senate resolution, and social responsibility will become socially acceptable.

We should be able to trust that our University will make socially responsible decisions. We also applaud Bon Appétit and the Campus Bookstore for having policies to ensure that the products we are buying and purchasing as students are of the highest integrity. We applaud students for being active in this issue and hope that they are inspired to continue to influence our campus endowment.

Editor’s Note: Eliza Adelson is a contributing reporter for Student Life

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