Sustainable Investments Task Force
5/22/13 Meeting Minutes
Task force members in attendance were: Jim Chambers (Chair), Steve Hietsch, Michelle Fisher, Mara Donaldson, Michael Fratantuono, Will Kochtitzky (via telephone), Adam Laird (via telephone).
Absent were: Margaret Lindsay, Neil Leary
Others in attendance were: Sean Witte (Controller) and Keith Gillespie (Assistant Treasurer)
Chair Jim Chambers brought the meeting to order at 12:02 PM. He introduced himself and asked the other members in attendance to introduce themselves as well.
Mr. Chambers reviewed the task force's charge as defined by the resolution of Dickinson's Board of Trustees which established the task force. He explained that the task force will make a recommendation to the BOT's Committee on Investments at the conclusion of its work. The Committee on Investments would then make a recommendation to the full BOT. Mr. Chambers stated that it was his goal to have the task force's recommendation to the Committee on Investments no later than January of 2014, and possibly as early as October of 2013. He noted that it was his hope and the hope of the Board that we could approach this task in the "Dickinson way," meaning that we would have a productive exchange of ideas which would advance the institution. He contrasted this to the way in which the divestment issue is being handled at some other institutions. Mr. Chambers also noted that regardless of what the college decides on divestment, we want to advance our work in the area of sustainability in other ways. He also commended the students and Student Senate for approaching the issue in a collaborative fashion.
Mara Donaldson asked for an explanation of the second bullet point in the charge from the BOT: "Investigate the likely impacts of divestment on the fossil fuel industry, as well as the role which fossil fuels and renewable energy play in the global economy." Steve Hietsch noted that this bullet point was added at the request of a few trustees who felt that negatively affecting the fossil fuel industry could have negative impacts on the global economy, and that this was an important factor which needed to be considered. Michael Fratantuono thought that it was good to include this bullet point for four reasons: 1) publicly traded companies constituted only about 20% of the worldwide oil industry; 2) fossil fuel companies are some of the leaders in efforts to develop forms of sustainable energy; 3) where do you draw the line in identifying companies which are connected to fossil fuels; and 4) we need to assess the costs and benefits of divestment and the global economic impacts needed to be considered in the assessment of costs.
Mr. Chambers noted that this was not a confidential process and noted that we can speak with others outside the group. He noted that it was important for us to be respectful of each other and to keep the individual viewpoints expressed at the task force meetings within the group. He also said that individual opinions needed to remain within the group, and that the group should be aligned on its external talking points about where the task force is with the process.
Mr. Chambers asked Steve Hietsch to review the draft work plan. He emphasized that the document was a draft that was only intended to be a starting point. He noted that section 1 of the work plan was aimed at assessing the impact of divestment and educating the group on how our endowment works. Section 2 was designed to encourage a healthy conversation about sustainability and how we could advance sustainability on campus, with or without divestment.
Steve Hietsch proceeded to review the draft work plan. The following discussion occurred.
Will Kochtitzky stated that in the first part of the work plan, he would be happy to give a presentation, but that he would rather present information than an actual "position" from Reinvest Dickinson. He noted that even he and his group were not 100% convinced that divestment was the correct course of action, and they were approaching the issue with an open mind. Mara Donaldson noted that it would be helpful to have a brief history of Reinvest Dickinson. She noted that some people thought that Bill McKibbon's visit was the origin of Reinvest Dickinson, when in fact it goes back well before Mr. McKibbon's visit.
Mara Donaldson commended Student Senate and Will Nelligan for their handling of the divestment issue and said it was good that they were engaging in the discussion.
Michael Fratantuono commented that it would be very helpful for the entire college community to have a basic understanding of the college's finances and the workings of the endowment.
Steve Hietsch noted that it might be helpful to have a discussion about the college's broader financial picture in addition to an understanding of the endowment. It was suggested that it might benefit the entire college community to have a better understanding of these topics; however, the presentation and discussion should take place at the task force level before taking place with a broader community audience. The task force agreed that this should be the order of things for all topics.
Michael Fratantuono suggested that we might work through the Advancement office to identify alumni who might serve as resource people for the panel discussion or other issues in the work plan. All agreed that this made sense.
Mara Donaldson noted that for logistical reasons, it is important to identify dates and reserve space as early as possible for community conversations.
Will Kochtitzky said he would like to know more about what Dickinson did previously in relation to the apartheid issue and the socially responsible divestment group. Mara Donaldson and Michael Fratantuono volunteered to research this and report on it. Michael suggested calling Annette Parker as a resource. Sean Witte noted that there was some information on this subject on the college's web site.
Mara Donaldson suggested that subsections II (sustainability initiatives in the community) and III (sustainability initiatives in facilities and campus operations) in Section 2 should be flipped in their order of appearance.
Adam Laird volunteered to take an active role in engaging the wider community in discussions when it is time for that piece of the work plan. He also said that we should have a discussion about how we define socially responsible investment. It was agreed that this would fall under the section which Mara Donaldson and Michael Fratantuono volunteered to lead, dealing with previous divestment and socially responsible investment initiatives at Dickinson.
Will Kochtitzky suggested that we discuss other means for achieving the same goals of the divestment movement without actually divesting.
The task force then proceeded to discuss its schedule for the remainder of the summer. Jim Chambers stated that he hoped to get through section 1 by the end of the summer. It was agreed to hold subsequent meetings on 6/27, 7/25, and 8/29 at 1:00 PM. Each session was scheduled to last for two hours.
Jim Chambers suggested that if anyone asked what occurred at the first meeting, had a productive discussion, developed a work plan with an aim toward finalizing our recommendation by January, and scheduled subsequent meetings for the summer.
There being no further business before the task force, the meeting was adjourned at 1:29 PM.