Student Assembly Passes Resolutions on University Investment, New Structure

The Undergraduate Government of Boston College’s Student Assembly (SA) passed a resolution calling upon the University to release annual reports listing mutual funds in the endowment and the creation of an advisory council that would recommend socially responsible investments. SA also passed a resolution altering the body’s size and structure.

The investment resolution was sponsored by Kate Canavan, director of the SA environmental committee and MCAS ’21, and Kyle Rosenthal, member of Climate Justice BC (CJBC) and CSOM ’21.

UGBC president-elect and executive vice president-elect Michael Osaghae, MCAS ’20, and Tiffany Brooks, MCAS ’21 proposed the changes to SA.

The resolution stresses that, as a Jesuit, Catholic university, it is vital that BC commit itself to transparency and move further toward socially responsible investments which “reflect the values of the institution.”

Last February, a referendum asked the undergraduate student body if BC should withhold investments from the fossil fuel industry. Eighty-four percent of voters—2,005 students—-voted in the affirmative. Canavan and Rosenthal sponsored the referendum.

Previous Heights reporting indicated that the University remains opposed to divestment from fossil fuel companies. Following the referendum, Associate Vice President for University Communications Jack Dunn said in an email to The Heights that the University does not believe divestment is a viable solution for climate change.

Rosenthal said that transparency should include increased knowledge by students as to what industries BC invests in—he listed fossil fuels, private prisons, and gun manufacturers as potential problem areas in BC’s investment strategies—which is a practice relatively unheard of among schools with endowments as large as BC’s.  

“We just want to know more about where the money in the endowment is going, so that we have a better idea of where our school that we attend for four years is, what industries they’re supporting,” Canavan said.

The proposed advisory council would act as a liaison between the student body and the investment office, recommend socially responsible investments, and keep the office up to date regarding student concerns. Canavan said that specific decisions regarding investments would still remain wholly under the University’s control.

“In an ideal world, the committee would help to make those decisions,” she said. “Regarding what types of socially responsible clubs we should be investing in, obviously, judging by the referendum, environmental issues is something that the student body really, really cares about.”

Similar advisory committees at Georgetown University and Brown University are among schools listed on the resolution as potential models.

The resolution also recommends that BC invest in “green” mutual funds whose mission is to combat the threat of climate change. Such funds would support clean energy and industries at a level greater than or equal to the University’s investments in the fossil fuel industry.

The original text of the resolution called for the release of information of any and all direct investments, including investments in real estate. After debate during the SA meeting, Madeleine McCullough—a senator for the class of 2020 and MCAS ’20—proposed an amendment that only called for the release of mutual fund information after concerns from senators that the proposal as it was might not be feasible in the eyes of the University. Canavan said that she disagreed with the hesitation, but conceded the point in order to push the resolution through.

Though this resolution was successful, Rosenthal reiterated that the fight is not over for divestment, for neither UGBC nor CJBC.

“The whole point of this resolution is putting the infrastructure in place to get toward divestment,” he said. “It’s also a way for us to show the administration that we’re willing to negotiate. … We understand it’s a complex process.”

In the same meeting, the SA also voted on a resolution to alter the structure of UGBC, which would reduce the number of seats to 33 by eliminating some seats with specific roles that would be instead represented by multi-senator committees.

Despite having been discussed by the SA before, the resolution encountered some roadblocks before being voted on. A discussion concerning if the SA had a quorum revolved around whether the members who called in on FaceTime could be considered “present,” and therefore able to vote—while meetings in the past have apparently allowed this, the UGBC rules state that members must be physically present.

Sam Szemerenyi, senator at large and MCAS ’20, further pointed out that allowing senators who plan to run for reelection to vote on this measure would be a violation of Robert’s Rules of Order—a commonly-used 19th-century manual of parliamentary procedure—as they would be voting on something in which they have a vested interest.

The resolution passed with the help of the members on FaceTime—Szemerenyi voted “no” on the resolution.

The SA also voted to allot $1,000 from the AHANA+ Leadership Council budget and the Board of Student Organizations budget toward the Undergraduate Leadership Academy (ULA) end-of-year retreat. The funds had to be reallocated because ULA’s retreat at the beginning of the year cost in excess of its original budget, following a last-minute change of retreat center, after concerns that the original location did not have proper accomodations for an attendee with a disability.

Featured Image by Jonathan Ye / Heights Editor

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