by Tony Moore
Getting the largest return on the college’s endowment while ensuring that the endowment fund doesn’t hold securities that could be sustainably toxic is a balancing act not to be attempted by the faint of heart. To discuss the issue and how it plays out at Dickinson, the All-Campus Investment Forum brought together administrators, faculty members and students for a discussion of the realities and future of wrangling the college’s endowment sustainably.
“In the long run, [sustainable investing] makes sense, as long as it doesn't come with too vast an impact on the student body,” said Jake De Wulf ’17, a policy management major who noted that a strong endowment ensures that Dickinson students have the best possible experience and education. “We need to prioritize. We have a lot of students leaving here thinking critically about these issues, and their educations are being funded potentially by some of these [investments].”
The 50-plus attendees were broken into groups after each brief info session and generated questions through focused discussion. One thing that quickly became clear was that discussing the issue of sustainable investment raised a lot more questions than it answered.
The discussion often revolved around what are known as ESG factors, issues relating to the intersection of environmental, social and governance concerns. Students were quick to point out that while the endowment is essential to the college and its students, its growth on the back of investments in such entities as fossil-fuel companies is anathema to the Dickinson ethos.
“I don't know how much of a return you can get from investing in an environmentally friendly way," said Richard Hopkins '17, an economics major, "but I feel like that kind of investing supports the cause that Dickinson believes in."
The forum was meant to keep the door open for further conversations, and administrators will email answers to unanswered questions to each participant.
For more information on how to get involved, contact the Sustainable Investing Group, through the Center for Sustainability Education (CSE@dickinson.edu), or Ken Shultes, associate vice president for sustainability & facilities planning (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Published April 24, 2015