Georgetown University continues to ignore morality in its investment decisions

Coalition Receives Woefully Inadequate Response from the Administration

April 27- This afternoon, Georgetown Divest received a response to its letters to President DeGioia of April 14, 23 and 26, which called on the University to live up to its Jesuit values by investing its endowment in a socially responsible manner, and called for the establishment of a body comprised of faculty, staff and students that would advise the Investment Office on issues of socially responsible investment, so that endowment investments would conform to the University’s foundational values.

This letter includes many misleading and contradictory statements. For example, it states, “The specific holdings of a managed fund change from time to time, sometimes frequently, due to investment decisions outside of University control. In this context, divestment of individual investments in companies is not possible…” This statement directly contradicts the current Investment Policy Statement for Georgetown’s Endowment, available online (or until the University removes it after the coalition publicizes it, as it did statements about a Committee on Socially Responsible Investment) at the Investment Office website: “” While the selection of individual securities should be based on the investment objectives and guidelines set forth in this policy, the Board of Directors may elect to exclude from portfolios certain securities that it determines are incompatible with the basic values of the University. Consistent with the acknowledgment of these values, the University shall strive to exercise its shareholders’ rights in voting proxies in a socially responsible manner.” (Bolding ours) Either their letter to us today is misleading, or the investment policy statement is. Indeed, such socially responsible investment is a common practice in America today, as we noted in our prior letters to the administration. According to the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, “roughly 11 percent of assets under professional management in the U.S.- nearly one out of every nine dollars- are now invested in SRI.” The administration must understand that it cannot continue to hide behind its argument that socially responsible investment “is not possible.”

Furthermore, the University has also ignored the call for a committee on socially responsible investment, a call that was echoed by the GUSA Senate in a resolution overwhelmingly passed on Sunday. There is precedent for such a process at a Jesuit university. Loyola University of Chicago, with an endowment in the hundreds of millions of dollars, has created the Shareholder Advocacy Committee to substantively address student concerns about university investments and to use the power of the portfolio to affect corporate policies. Santa Clara University has a similar process of socially responsible investment, and the CIO of that Jesuit institution stated in 2007 that he did not believe the school’s SRI policies negatively affect the growth of the school’s endowment. These two schools are just two examples among many colleges and universities across the country that incorporate policies of social responsibility into their investment practices.

We believe that this letter does not constitute a good faith response to student concerns about our university’s blatant disregard for social responsibility when it comes to its endowment. It is not a response that the coalition will accept, and we will continue to pressure the University until it recognizes that ethical values should be considered in the university’s investment decisions at all. Tomorrow afternoon at 2:30 PM, we will return this letter to President DeGioia.

Letter from Administration April 27, 2010

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