University Report Seeks New Post For 'Socially-Aware' Investments
A University committee has recommended that consideration of social issues play a part in Harvard's investment decisions and has urged that a new faculty be created to pool Harvard's resources for the study of current social problems.
The Committee on University Relations with Corporate Enterprises called for the appointment of a special officer to act as "fact-finder" and consider the "non-financial" aspects of Harvard's investments. The officer would recommend investments to the Corporation but have no decision-making powers.
The committee's report was submitted to President Pusey and the Corporation in mid-January. No action has yet been taken on the proposals.
The committee-chaired by Robert W. Austin, professor of Business Administration-was formed by Pusey last April in the wake of debates on whether Harvard should vote its 287,000 shares of General Motors stock against the G. M. management in a "proxy fight" to force the Corporation to be more conscious of its social obligations.
The Austin committee urged that Harvard "fundamentally" seek maximum returns from investments unless they are "justifiable on the basis of the University's duty to the more or less immediately surrounding community."
The Austin Committee also called for an examination of the Treasurer's office, currently held by George F. Bennett who serves a dual role as principal financial officer and professional investment manager for the University.
The proposed investments officer would not replace the Treasurer. The new post would simply seek profitable investments that "yield extra social benefits as well."
There are issues "where there is no longer room for argument among people who accept our basic social-econom-ic-political system-for example, hostility to anything smacking of racism," the report said.
The Interdisciplinary Faculty for the Study of Social Problems would not impinge on research conducted in Harvard's other departments, but rather would supplement it. The advantage of such a Faculty would be its ability to draw on the resources of all segments of the University, the report said.
The new Faculty would draw its membership from academic circles, labor unions, government, and consumer organizations to seek solutions for problems cutting across all segments of society.
"Membership in this faculty should be temporary (though normally full-time). That is to say, the Faculty's composition would turn over with time as major social issues changed," the report said.
The precise direction of the faculty's research would be up to the discretion of its Dean and membership. The Austin report suggested that the research might lead to programs which could be offered to students for credit.