A new Boston University committee that meets for the first time this week will allow students and faculty members to voice suggestions about the university’s investment decisions, officials said.
BU’s Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing is holding their first meeting at the end of this week, BU spokesman Colin Riley said.
“It [the ACSRI] formalizes the process of receiving input with regard to the university’s investment practices,” he said.
The committee will send recommendations to the Board of Trustees chair, advising investments in or divestments from certain companies and market sectors based on a majority vote, Riley said.
“[The creation of the ACSRI] shows that the trustees are respectful and recognize that there are members of the BU community that have wanted to voice their suggestions and recommendations and be taken seriously,” he said. “This committee certainly allows for that.”
The Board of Trustees approved the establishment of the ACSRI in April based on recommendations by an ad hoc committee formed by trustees to discuss its creation.
The committee will include three trustees, three faculty members, two undergraduate students and one graduate student, Riley said. Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore and President Robert Brown will also sit on the committee as ex officio members.
The ASCRI will meet at least one time each year to discuss stakeholders’ suggestions and concerns, he confirmed.
School of Management senior Aditya Rudra, who will serve as one of the two undergraduate students on the committee, said the majority of BU students and officials do not know exactly where BU’s endowment is invested at any given time because an investment team ultimately handles investment decisions.
“We don’t actually know where 100 percent of our money is going at any point in time,” he said. “In that way, it does get a little bit blurry. It’s not always easy to take a social, political stance to investment philosophy.”
To prevent conflicts of interest, complete knowledge of BU’s investments is kept to university officials with judiciary responsibility, Rudra said.
“We do not have that entire transparency,” he said. “So what … we [the committee] can do, generally has to do more with providing recommendations that the trustees can then act upon, and then the investment committee can come back to us and say, ‘Hey, this is how it’s actually going to impact our portfolio.’”
School of Law and College of Arts and Sciences professor David Lyons said BU’s commitment to community service made the committee a valuable resource for the university community.
“[The ACSRI] is a more direct form of community service,” Lyons said. “… To the extent that the university actually changes its investments so that it is more socially responsible, it presumably reduces the actual funding of socially irresponsible activities. That’s somewhat direct. It also encourages other institutions to do the same.”
The committee reflects BU’s core values, Lyons said.
“BU is committed to community service, and I think that entails socially responsible investing,” Lyons said. “Not doing socially responsible investing would be a community disservice, as simple as that. But what is at least as important [is that the ACSRI] sends a message that we act and we don’t just talk.”
College of Engineering junior John Griese, president of BU’s chapter of Students for a Just and Stable Future, said he was pleased to hear about the creation of the committee.
“We’re excited to hear that President Brown is looking for student and community involvement in how BU invests its money and makes its money, and we’re very excited to see what plans they have for getting student input,” he said.
SJSF members look forward to working with DivestBU, a student group that encourages colleges to divest in fossil fuel companies, to collaborate with the ACSRI and promote responsible investment decisions.
“Investing is not just for you to make money, you’re actually buying stock in a company and in a way endorsing it and what it does,” he said. “You can’t just claim you’re investing in something and not reporting your business practices.”