Students, Corporation To Discuss Social Choice Fund

Five students will meet with the Harvard Corporation Committee on Shareholder Responsibility this Friday to discuss the details of a social choice fund, the creation of which the University announced in December.

Three representatives from the Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition—Michael E. Danto ’13, Nicole E. Granath ’15, and Samuel F. Wohns ’14—and the president and vice president of the Undergraduate Council—Tara Raghuveer ’14 and Jen Q. Zhu ’14—will attend the 45-minute meeting with two members of the Harvard Corporation, the University’s highest governing body, who sit on the CCSR.

Wohns, the alumni coordinator of Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition, said that the meeting would help his group decide whether or not to give the approximately $11,000 in the Fair Harvard Fund to the Harvard-managed social choice fund. The Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition originally created the Fair Harvard Fund to show support for socially responsible investing, hoping that the University’s endowment managers at Harvard Management Company would take it over eventually.

We’ll need to hear a credible commitment to the sustainability of the social choice fund,” Wohns said.

Transparency, a promise to advertise the fund to potential donors, and oversight by students, alumni, and faculty would be important factors in the dicussion, according to Wohns.“We’re very optimistic that Friday’s meeting will lead to an agreement,” he said.

Harvard’s social choice fund, which the University announced after months of pressure from students and alumni, will be established in July and invested in one or more mutual funds that the CCSR deems socially responsible. Income from those investments will contribute to student financial aid.

Yet to be decided are the particular mutual funds that will be employed and how transparent the fund’s investments will be.

“We intend to explain to the CCSR that we think that the social fund is an incredibly important and historic first step on Harvard’s path towards becoming a leading socially responsible investor,” Wohns said.

Wohns explained that many advocates of socially responsible investing were disappointed that Harvard had not chosen to put the entire endowment in so-called socially responsible investments, and said that he hoped the University would take additional steps in that direction.

Raghuveer, who will represent the UC at the meeting, said that to her knowledge this type of meeting between the Corporation and students is “relatively unprecedented.”

“I’m really excited that this meeting is happening,” Raghuveer said. “It’s a great step for activism on campus.”

In an emailed statement, University spokesperson Kevin Galvin wrote that members of the CCSR and Office of Alumni Affairs and Development were looking forward to learning about students’ views on how the fund should operate and what its goals should be.

Earlier on Friday, members of Students for a Just and Stable Future—an organization dedicated to finding solutions to the climate crisis—also will meet with the CCSR to advocate divestment from fossil fuels, according to the group’s communications coordinator Alli J. Welton ’15.

Last November, a UC referendum advocating fossil fuel divestment passed with 72 percent of the vote, but a week later, Galvin told The Crimson that Harvard was “not considering divesting from companies related to fossil fuels.”

—Staff writer Nikita Kansra can be reached at nkansra01@college.harvard.edu.

—Staff writer Samuel Y. Weinstock can be reached at sweinstock@college.harvard.edu.

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