The following was sent to faculty, staff and students on March 5, 2015:
Dear Faculty, Staff and Students,
I am pleased to announce the creation of a task force to explore ways in which Seattle University can further its commitment to social responsibility in making investments as expressed in its Investment Policy*. The Socially Responsible Investments (SRI) Task Force, which is part of the Board of Trustee's Investment Committee, will have a term of one year and consist of 11 members representing the Board of Trustees, alumni, students, faculty and staff.
The university has already made targeted investments in micro-entrepreneurship activities. The new advisory task force is being asked to consider how we might more fully realize our commitment to investing endowment funds in socially responsible entities and purposes. Its charter states: "The Task Force will consider issues of social responsibility in the investment policies and practices of Seattle University. It is charged with making recommendations to the Investment Committee on socially responsible investment issues related to the investments in the university's endowment."
Endowment funds are entrusted to us by donors whose gifts provide much needed support for student scholarships and endowed faculty chairs and professorships. Unlike some universities whose endowment funds include direct investments in publicly traded companies, our endowment funds are invested only in commingled or pooled funds and private equity partnerships. As reflected in our audited financial statements , which are public documents, the university has no direct investments in any publicly traded companies and thus no direct investments in any publicly traded fossil fuel companies.
The SRI Task Force was established in large part as a result of the dialogue the administration engaged in with Sustainable Student Action (SSA) on divestment from fossil fuels. A year ago after engaging in extended conversations and meetings with SSA, the administration outlined why it was not prepared to move forward at the time on divestment.
We also indicated the importance of continuing the dialogue with SSA. I felt it was important to find ways to take concrete steps on areas where there is consensus and to continue the progress we have already made through the Climate Action Plan and other initiatives on advancing sustainability in our operations and academic programming.
Over the past several months, Connie Kanter, chief financial officer and vice president for Finance and Business Affairs, and Michele Murray, vice president for Student Development, and three representatives of SSA have met regularly as a working group. I applaud them for their efforts and all members of SSA for their passion and commitment. The task force is an additional way the university community can work together toward our shared goal of creating a more just, sustainable and humane world.
I look forward to updating you on developments coming out of the task force and know you'll join me in thanking its members for their service.
Stephen V. Sundborg, S.J.
*The Investment Policy states: Consistent with the university's Jesuit Catholic values, the [Investment] Committee will consider the university's commitment to ethics and social responsibility in making investment decisions. While the committee remains committed to its fiduciary duty to the university's long-term financial growth and sustainability, it also recognizes the value of non-traditional investment opportunities in providing a reasonable return as well as furthering the university's mission and values.
Socially Responsible Investments Task Force members:
NOTE: The Investment Committee chair appoints the task force chair. Seattle University Student Government (SGSU) and the Graduate Student Council (GSC) appoint the student representatives. Academic Assembly appoints the faculty representatives and President Sundborg appoints administrative staff and alumni representatives.