RIO Sets the Record Straight on Symposium
To the Editor –
The Responsible Investing Organization would like to first congratulate the administration on their recent “Symposium on Divestment.” This marks a shift in their thinking on the College’s endowment — specifically, a recognition that our investments have moral implications. In talking with the administration just a year ago, this would not have been acknowledged, and we’re very happy to see the discussion is headed in the right direction.
That being said, we were disappointed with the way this symposium was organized and executed. When we reached out to the administration in early October, we had high hopes for collaboration. We met a number of times, and while they continued to express interest in working with us, they would immediately stop returning emails once we had left their office. That is, not until four days before the event, when we, along with the rest of the student body, were invited to attend. The feigned interest in collaboration followed by definitively anti-collaborative action is nothing new for this administration, and we (along with many other campus groups familiar with this) are beginning to have less patience for it.
The symposium itself housed a number of voices from around the country to discuss the issue of divestment in front of a silent audience. Students and community members were invited to attend but not to speak. This was coupled with an inaccurate portrayal of impact investing and a complete omission of community investing as a strategy towards socially responsible investing. To bring in speakers to talk at a group of Obies about their endowment is patronizing and unproductive. We believe that for an endowment to be representative of a community, that community needs to be involved in the discussions surrounding that endowment, and their opinions should equally be taken into account when decisions must be made.
On March 8 and 9 Oberlin’s Responsible Investing Organization will be hosting its own “Responsible Investing Policy Symposium.” It will feature speakers to discuss socially responsible investing, as well as numerous workshops and working groups in which the entire Oberlin community will be invited to create a vision for how we’d like our endowment to look over the coming years. We have built this symposium around collaboration, and we so look forward to the conversation that’s to come.
The RIO Policy Symposium will take place March 8 and 9 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the AJLC. Students, professors, community members, alumni, administration, trustees and all other Obies are invited to intend. If you’d like to collaborate with RIO on the planning of workshops, event-running logistics or any other part of the symposium, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Jasper Clarkberg and Hayden Arp