PRESS RELEASE: 375 Donors support RI@Harvard

The Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition released the following press release this morning:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

375+ Harvard donors petition University to invest responsibly

Contact: Sam Wohns at info@responsibleharvard.com and 616-334-8343

April 29, 2012—Harvard University in Cambridge, MA

The Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition (RI@Harvard) announced on Monday that its Fair Harvard Fund has received donations from over 375 student, alumni, and faculty donors since the Fund’s launch one month ago. The Fair Harvard Fund initiative aims to incentivize the Harvard Corporation to create a Social Choice Fund managed by the Harvard Management Company as part of the Harvard endowment, according to environmental, social, and governance criteria.

“It’s a major milestone, especially considering that we’re celebrating the 375th birthday of Harvard this year,” said organizer Jia Hui Lee, a senior at Harvard College. “This is the first step to achieving broader goals for socially responsible investment at Harvard.”

The Fair Harvard Fund, which now holds over $9,000, will be held in escrow until Harvard creates an acceptable Social Choice Fund within the endowment. If such a Social Choice Fund is not established by August 1, the Fair Harvard Fund will be managed by investment professionals according to ESG criteria set by the community.

The RI@Harvard Coalition already includes more than 25 organizations, collectively representing more than 7,000 students, faculty, and alumni of Harvard University.

“We hope to create a way for alumni donors to support Harvard without worrying about a disconnect between Harvard’s stated mission and its investment practices,” said former Undergraduate Council President Senan Ebrahim. “The creation of a Social Choice Fund would be welcomed by the Harvard community as a first step in the Harvard Management Company’s path towards greater mission alignment.”

The RI@Harvard Coalition is calling on the Harvard Management Company to better align its endowment investment practices with the stated values of Harvard University. While Harvard College’s mission statement urges its students “to assume responsibility for the consequences of personal actions…to advance knowledge, to promote understanding, and to serve society,” the HMC mission statement simply pledges to maximize returns in order to fund the operations of Harvard University, regardless of the cost in social harm.

The HMC has historically made ethically questionable investment decisions in pursuit of maximal returns, sometimes sparking student and alumni concern. In the 1970s, students and alumni called for divestment from apartheid South Africa; after years of controversy, Harvard partially divested. In 2005, students successfully called for divestment from PetroChina, which notoriously funded genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan. More recently, Harvard announced that it would not re-invest in HEI Hotels and Resorts after years of student protest about HEI’s labor practices. However, other than these isolated instances, the HMC has no policy of socially responsible investing. RI@Harvard hopes to catalyze Harvard’s transition into a more socially responsible, transparent, and accountable institutional investor.

With 375 donors, one for each year of Harvard history, the Fair Harvard Fund is on its way to realizing the establishment of a Social Choice Fund at Harvard. To learn more about the RI@Harvard Coalition, visit www.ResponsibleHarvard.com. To donate to the Fair Harvard Fund, visit www.FairHarvardFund.com.

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