Support the Creation of a Committee on Investor Responsibility at Rice University
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Rice University’s $5 billion endowment is one of our community's strongest venues for social change. As equity holders, Rice gets a say in the operation of corporations. Specifically, the most important channel of influence is votes on proxy resolutions that touch on how corporations address socially important issues such as climate change risk, corporate governance, and political contributions, among others.
How Rice votes on these issues is not a decision that should be made without consultation of all stakeholders that the endowment affects. Rice alumni contribute over $100 million a year to the endowment, and its returns are used to fund a plurality of the University’s operating budget, affecting students, faculty and alumni. All of these stakeholders should have a voice in the ethical implications of Rice’s money.
In 2010, after a group of students voiced similar concerns, President David Leebron announced the creation of a Committee on Investor Responsibility (CIR) to make recommendations to the Rice Management Company (RMC) on proxy resolutions. Unfortunately, the committee died in 2012 due to a lack of student interest.
The CIR should be revived for three reasons. First, as highlighted by recent Thresher articles (http://www.ricethresher.org/article/2016/10/consider-more-ethical-endowment-investments student interest in the endowment and its ethical implications are high. Recently the SA passed a resoution supporting this proposal.
Second, peer institutions such as Columbia, Stanford, Harvard and Yale have thriving CIRs that provide positive publicity, and there is no reason that Rice should not join their ranks. Finally, two solutions have been identified for preventing the lack of student interest that ended the committee in 2012: 1) Ensure wide variety of stakeholders on the committee, including faculty, alumni and students. This gives the committee a gravitas that makes the work feel more important; 2) establish set areas of engagement on issues where Rice has a clear consensus and history of support.
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