Board of Trustees meeting met with FRUSTRATION, divestment issue continues

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By Aidan Regan

“We come at things slightly differently … but we all share the good of this university and the good of the students,” Board of Trustees Chair Robert Pohlad told ASUPS President Noah Lumbantobing at the open meeting last Friday.

Puget Sound’s Board of Trustees meets on campus for two days at least twice a year to make decisions about how Puget Sound should pursue its aims. Members of the Board include alumni, community members, parents, and President Crawford. The Board sets the University’s mission statement and strategic plans, reviews the educational program, ensures good management and resources for the University, secures and manages the University’s endowment, and oversees legal affairs.

The Board reports to the campus community at the end of each meeting, publishing an overview of their two days on the University’s website. Additionally, they hold an hour-long open meeting that members of the campus community can sit in on.

Members of Puget Sound’s Environmental Campus Outreach (ECO) club attended the open meeting last Friday to pressure the Board to divest from Fossil Fuels. After ECO club’s student led “Divest UPS” campaign last spring, the Board did not divest from fossil fuels but created an alternative Fossil Fuel Free Portfolio instead. Potential donors can choose which portfolio to contribute to, but the new portfolio is not advertised. “Such inaction to advertise the portfolio exemplifies the Board of Trustees’ attempt to sideline a call for climate accountability by the University of Puget Sound community,” a statement that ECO club released last Friday said. “The unwillingness to advertise the Portfolio only highlights the Board’s inability to take pride in the very solution they have created. ”According to the statement, the Board seeded the Fossil Fuel Free Portfolio with $1 million in January. This represents 0.3 percent of Puget Sound’s $310.4 million endowment. For comparison, the Board’s 2016 financial report showed a net loss of 2.47 percent of the University’s endowment, representing over $11.3 million. According to ECO club, Puget Sound still has over $41 million invested in oil and coal companies. The club has started a pledge campaign, calling for donors to withhold their donations to Puget Sound until the Board of Trustees commits to divestment from fossil fuels.

“Our love for the community explains why we must remain active and engaged. Our love for the community means we not only have a responsibility to protect it but also to ensure that it reaches its fullest potential,” ECO Club’s statement said.
“All our pushing and advocating comes from a place of love,” Lumbantobing told the Board at the open meeting.

Aside from the open meeting and report, the Board keeps other activities private and other documents sealed.

“The Board does not have a ‘privacy policy’ as such,” Board of Trustees Secretary Liz Collins said in an email to The Trail. Yet she and Archivist and Special Collections Librarian Katie Henningsen both confirmed that the Board’s meeting minutes are closed for 50 years after their creation and that the Board’s biographical and correspondence files are closed for 75 years after their creation or until the death of the individual mentioned, whichever is longer. Documents may have “additional restrictions placed upon them” as well.

Researchers at Puget Sound may request the Board’s sealed records from the Office of the President, although it is unclear how one would know what to request.

“I understand that the Board of Trustees sometimes need privacy when conducting important business regarding the university. What concerns me more than the privacy policy is the degree of interaction the board has with current students. I believe that privacy policies are more understandable when there is a tangible relationship with the board and the campus community. Most students never get the chance to interact or meet with board members, which is unfortunate. As trustees of the university, I think the biggest indicator of a successful year is the degree to which student voices are incorporated into the vision of the university,”said Director of Student Interests Peyton Anstine.

“If the Board of Trustees and the University want to have an honest relationship with the students, they should be transparent,” sophomore Meghan Rogers said.

“Transparency is essential if the board wishes to make fair and inclusive decisions,” First year Snelly Bushnell said. “The obfuscation [of ] the school’s privacy policy implements is troubling.”

One thought on “Board of Trustees meeting met with FRUSTRATION, divestment issue continues

  • The point that the ECO club (and ASUPS) misses, the misguidedness as to the effects of such divestment and its endangerment of the security of the endowment notwithstanding, is tripartite: the investors have a fiduciary duty to ensure the health of the school’s portfolio, the administration’s upholding of their charter to ensure the best quality of education for its students (which extends to their investments because the scholarships of especially needful students depends on it), and donor relations’ obligation to all the alumni past and present who have donated to the endowment (this does not include the current students).

    To the first point, divestment would violate the fiduciary duty of the investors managing our portfolio because it erodes the diversification of the investments and exposes it to greater risk and volatility. To the second point, our endowment is not large enough (although it is much larger than similarly sized colleges) that market volatility does not threaten the scholarships of many students and the salaries of many endowed professorships among others. Does divesting help advance the mission of the University in providing the best possible education for its student? Assuredly not since doing so would threaten the ability of many students to attend. Lastly, it is not up to the students (who receive benefit from but do not contribute to the endowment) but is beholden to the donors instead. Should the alumni of UPS that have contributed to the endowment push for divestment, then the Board should consider doing so. But, you can be sure that I will encourage the University and its administration NOT to divest.

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