SRI Platform Presentation

By Guest Contributor

The Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) Club’s mission is simple: we believe that Middlebury’s $1 billion endowment should reflect our College community’s values. This process must be as transparent and inclusive to all stakeholders as possible, and we work closely with the administration to bring about the change we believe is necessary.

The SGA can have an important relationship in working with the administration, as we do, to help Middlebury become the institution we say we are: one with strong values and principles. Regardless of which candidate wins the election, it is our hope that all SGA representatives will support what we would like to see the SGA address next year. 

1. Align Institutional Values with our Endowment: Our current approach to investing our endowment implies that where we get the revenue to fund our school and its programs is separate from our schools’ values. Simply put, what funds the Environmental Studies department, which aims to create the next generation of environmental leaders, is distinct from the endowment, invested in oil and gas. Investing with our values in mind doesn’t mean reduced return, especially since some environmental, social and governance (ESG) concerns are material risks that can greatly affect the value of an investment. We need to put our money where our mouth is and divest from fossil fuels, explicitly incorporate ESG investing principles, and find more ways to invest with positive social impact.

2. Transparency in our Endowment and decision-making: This is a basic aspect of good governance that we look for in the companies our club, through RISE (Research and Investment in Sustainable Equity), invests in as well. Middlebury needs to start by allowing us access to more information about what our endowment is used for and invested in. More broadly, this transparency should also apply to all decision making processes the College administration utilizes that affect students. 

3. Student Involvement in Institutional Decision-making: There are many committees and boards on campus that greatly affect student life, from tuition and financial aid to housing. The recent changes to the Board of Trustees structure saw the introduction of a college-specific Board of Overseers, with one student Constituent Overseer. We believe this position needs to be reformed by adding a second student with an overlapping term and changing the selection process to rely on students to choose the person in one of the very few positions with direct contact to Trustees and high level of decision making. Another aspect of the new board structure are the standing committees that deal with a specific subject area, from Resources to Risk. Including student perspectives on these committees is an important piece as well since most recommendations to the Board comes through one of these committees.

4. SGA Support for Student Organizations’ Collaboration with the Administration:  The SGA can continue to improve the connection between administration and student organizations, such as ours. A strong, working relationship between our next SGA President and incoming President Patton is vital, and we hope that the issues brought up will include those expressed by students in the Presidential Brief, organized by Maeve Grady of SRI, with contributions from 12 other student organizations, who all share an interest in making Middlebury a better place. The SGA can also facilitate greater expression of student interests through improving surveying processes with more consultation of student organizations for questions and allowing student organizations to run their own surveys with incentives for participation.

Virginia Wiltshire-Gordon ’16 is from Wilmette, Ill.

Sophie Kapica ’17 is from Chatham, N.J.