HKS Students Vote in Favor of Responsible Investment

Students at the Harvard Kennedy School became Harvard’s second student body to vote yes on a referendum question supporting responsible investment of the University’s endowment.

In a student election held on Monday and Tuesday, 93 percent of Kennedy School voters approved the referendum question, which calls for the University to seed its planned social choice fund with .1 percent—roughly $30 million—of its $30.7 billion endowment.

Nearly half of the Kennedy School’s approximately 1,000 students cast ballots in the election.

Kennedy School student David J. Garfunkel—a member of the Responsible Investment @ HKS leadership team, which coordinated the referendum question—said he and other organizers are “really thrilled about the turnout.”

Although the ballot question drew overwhelming student support, it is unclear what, if any, effect the referendum will have on University policy. The University has not indicated whether it will draw any funds from its existing endowment to jumpstart the new fund, which will be launched on July 1.

This past November, the Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition—the parent organization of Responsible Investment @ HKS—coordinated a similar student referendum at the College. In that election, 80.5 percent of undergraduate voters cast ballots in support of the establishment of a social choice endowment fund.

Prior to the Kennedy School’s referendum vote, organizers said that school-wide support of the measure would be a talking point in further discussion with administrators.

“We hope to communicate the results to the administration and to make it known that this is an issue that goes beyond just College students, but also grad students,” Kennedy School student Alexander “Alexi” White, a member of the Responsible Investment at Harvard leadership team, said last week.

Responsible Investment @ HKS plans to motivate fellow Harvard Harvard graduate schools to partake in a social choice coalition.

“As our movement grows in strength, we kind of want to add to the unified voice of Harvard students,” Garfunkel said.

Garfunkel said that the social choice fund presents the University with an opportunity of historic magnitude.

“Harvard is a worldwide leader when it comes to so many other issues. There’s no reason to think that responsible investment needs to be any different,” Garfunkel said. “We really want to encourage the administration to capitalize on the first step that they’ve taken and to really take the lead.”

—Staff writer Steven R. Watros can be reached at watros@college.harvard.edu. Follow him on Twitter @SteveWatros.

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