What if my campus administrators say they don’t know where their endowment is invested?

What if my campus administrators say they don’t know where their endowment is invested?

A:

A common refrain from administrators, and even sometimes university Presidents or Board members is “We can’t divest because we don’t even know where the money is invested — and even if we did know, we couldn’t make that information public because it would reduce our profits.”

Well, here’s where you get to play your trump card. It may be true that administrators don’t know what stocks or bonds they own at any given moment, but administrators and boards hire the money managers, and thus get to decide where their money is, or isn’t, invested. If they really wanted to divest from fossil fuels, all they would have to do is tell the money managers to do just that!

Touché.

It sometimes makes sense to bring public attention to the fact that Presidents and Boards are trying to keep their investments secret, but don’t let this argument distract you from the fact that they are the ones who get to make the call, not the money manager. Transparency becomes a much more important issue after you’ve won your divestment campaign with the President and Board, so that you can hold them and the money managers accountable for actually following through with the divestment promise.

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