Administrative Correspondence

Here is the email exchange between members of our campaign and the Ithaca College administration:

October 11

From: The Environmental Leadership and Actions Network
To: President Rochon, Nancy Pringle, and Tom Grape

President Rochon, Ms. Pringle and Mr. Grape,

Thank you again on behalf of myself, Kat, Allison and our coalition for meeting with us last night. It is encouraging to know that our school’s administration is willing to work with students on this campaign. We understand that the administration, the board, and the students have shared values and esteem for Ithaca College, and that all parties respect the difficulties of such a large change and are eager to work together to better our institution.

Attached is the list of sixteen companies we would like to see Ithaca College divested from by the end of the school year. We’d also like something in writing from the Board of Trustees stating that they are actively working on divesting from these sixteen by the end of the next board meeting (Wednesday, February 13).

We would also like to set another meeting for next month (during the week of November 12-16) to further discuss our 2015 campaign goals, to discuss moving towards socially responsible investing, and to receive a preliminary answer regarding divestment from the sixteen companies.

Thank you again and we look forward to hearing from you.

Ren Ostry
And the Environmental Leadership and Actions Network


_____________________________________________

October 19

From: President Rochon
To: The Environmental Leadership and Actions Network

Dear Ren et al.,

Board chair Tom Grape and I appreciated the opportunity last week to learn more about your group’s goals.  I’d like to summarize the understandings I took away from the meeting so that you can correct me on any misunderstandings I may have:

a.  You identified sixteen companies from which you would like to see the College divest.

b.  This is the first list among others that you intend to submit in the future, containing companies that you do not believe the College should support through stock investment.

c.  You also intend to submit lists of companies you believe the College should invest in because of their pro environmental characteristics.

d.  You are still formulating the criteria by which companies would be excluded or included in College investments, so that it is not possible at this time to know how extensive these lists will be or how large a share of the total economy they may exclude or include.

e.  You would also like to form a task force that will work with the IC Board of Trustees in formulating investment policy and/or in making specific investment decisions.

After our meeting together on Thursday afternoon, we followed up by informing the Board of our conversation.  We also shared with the Board our understanding that although you have specific requests for institutional divestment from 16 companies, your total program of change is still preliminary.  Given that fact, it is our sense that we should wait to have further conversations until ELAN has had time to clarify your entire agenda.  As you can imagine, it is difficult to have a wide-ranging conversation on a significant issue when that issue comes to us in incremental pieces.

I would like to suggest that ELAN work to develop the complete program of investment and divestment, accompanied by the principles behind the program and any concrete proposals for change in the current process by which decisions on investing IC’s endowment are currently made.  When that work is complete I would be happy to make sure the board chair and the chair of the investment committee are aware of your proposals.  I also commit to careful board deliberation on your proposals at that time.

I hope you accept this proposal for constructive dialog and engagement in the spirit in which it is offered.

Sincerely,

Tom Rochon
_____________________________________________

October 25

From: The Environmental Leadership and Actions Network
To: President Rochon, Nancy Pringle, and Tom Grape

Dear President Rochon, Ms. Pringle, and Mr. Grape,

President Rochon, thank you for your in-depth response to our email. We appreciated the opportunity to meet with you, Ms. Pringle and Mr. Grape, as well.

We noticed that Mr. Grape’s email was not included in your response, and we would like all those present at our last meeting included in the proposed meeting to happen the week of November 12-16, to receive a preliminary answer regarding the divestment of the listed sixteen companies.

We would like to begin by responding to the summary of your understandings, and once again ask for a meeting with yourself, Mr. Grape and Ms. Pringle during the week of November 12-16.

a.  This list of sixteen companies is what we would like to be discussing, and we ask for your recommendation that the Board of Trustees divest from these companies by the end of this academic school year.

b.  We will not be presenting any more lists. To clarify, we are asking that the college divest from these sixteen companies by the end of the academic year. We are asking for full divestment from the fossil fuel industry and the establishment of a new policy detailing standards for socially responsible investment to be regulated and enforced through the formation of a task force to be made up of students, faculty, staff and board members by the end of the 2015 academic year. Inherent in these requests is the desire for full transparency into the college’s investment practices. Therefore, this is the only list of specific companies our coalition will be providing until the policy and task force for responsible investment is formed.

c.  Our coalition will not be submitting a list of companies we believe the college should invest in due to the fact that we are not qualified to figure out which sustainable businesses would yield a high enough return on investment. This is an endeavor best left to the socially responsible investing task force. We in no way intend to tell the investment committee how to do their job, and understand that we all commit to the dual goal of honoring Ithaca College’s commitment to environmental and social justice, and investing our endowment in a way that generates income to be used for the perpetuity of Ithaca College and its students.

d.  The new policy for socially and environmentally responsible investment will outline the criteria which will guide the decisions of the task force regarding both the divestment and reinvestment of funds. We are calling for 100% divestment from the fossil fuel industry, as are over forty other colleges at this time. It is with this goal in mind that we are also asking for full transparency regarding our endowment and its investment holdings so that the socially responsible investing task force (students, faculty, staff, alumni and board members) can then monitor the commitment to full divestment and work towards more socially responsible investing practices.

e.  Again, the task force would be responsible for monitoring fossil fuel divestment and socially responsible investing. In order for this to happen, the board must agree to 100% fossil fuel divestment and full transparency of investment practices.

Together, we can reshape the way our college is involved in the global economy, and redefine what it means to help our college exist in perpetuity. Our coalition believes that divestment from the fossil fuel industry is the most important work we can be doing to ensure a world worth graduating into, and we can make this call to action a reality with your help.

We ask again for a meeting to occur during the week of November 12-16 to receive a preliminary answer regarding the divestment from said sixteen fossil fuel companies. At this meeting, we would be happy to share a preliminary definition regarding what our coalition (and over forty other colleges) define as what constitutes a company’s involvement in the fossil fuel industry.

We are looking forward to using this time in order to build a logical and realistic timeline for our campaign that will ensure that we are all on the same page. We feel that consensus on a clear and tangible plan is necessary for us to move towards divestment together.

Currently, our coalition is working towards collecting over 1,000 student signatures in the next two weeks asking for fossil fuel divestment. Student support has been growing rapidly, and our coalition of clubs involved in this campaign is expanding. We are excited to share these and more updates with you in our next meeting.

Thank you for your time, and we look forward to hearing back from you.

Kathleen Pongrace
And the Environmental Leadership and Actions Network
_____________________________________________

November 12

From: Nancy Pringle
To: The Environmental Leadership and Actions Network

Hello Allison,

Your group has asked for a meeting during the week of November 12 with Chairman Grape, President Rochon and me to discuss the next steps in your proposal for the divestment of the College’s investment portfolio in the sixteen companies on the list you have provided to us.  It is not necessary to schedule a meeting this week to meet with us as it would be premature to speak on behalf of the board in providing a preliminary answer regarding the divestment of the sixteen companies.   As Mr. Grape explained to you in our previous meeting, trustees review proposals with careful attention to how any proposal helps fulfill the board’s responsibilities to the college.  We commit that the board or its investment committee will discuss your proposal at its meeting in February 2013.  In addition to the information provided in the email from Kathleen Pongrace, it would be helpful to receive by early January your organizations’ definition of the scope of what you refer to as the fossil fuel industry from which you expect divestment to occur.

On another note, in the week following the board meeting, I did meet with Rebecca Billings and Ben (I apologize but I can not remember Ben’s last name) regarding shared governance in relation to the board.   I hope that Allison and Ben were able to convey to you how shared governance works at Ithaca College.  However, if not, I would be more than happy to find a time to meet with your group to review what I shared with Rebecca and Ben.  Also at my meeting with Rebecca and Ben, I suggested they schedule a time to meet with Carl Sgrecci, Vice-President for Finance and Administration.  Mr. Sgrecci has indicated that he has yet to hear from anyone in your group.  Again, I would encourage you to schedule a time to meet with Mr. Sgrecci so that he fully understands the course of action your group is hoping to pursue in regards to divestment from fossil fuels and social responsible investing in general.  Mr. Sgrecci works directly with the Board Investment Committee and would be a good first point of contact for your committee as we move toward the February Board meeting.

In closing, thank you for the clarification the group provided on the goals of the Environmental Leadership and Actions Network (ELAN).  Moving forward I am requesting that your group identify one person who will serve as the communicator for the group in correspondence with us.  This will hopefully serve to facilitate better communication when we are receiving requests for meetings and responses to emails.  Please do not hesitate to forward any additional information you believe would be helpful information for me to have as the board prepares for its February 2013 meeting.

Sincerely,

Nancy Pringle
Secretary to the Board

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2 thoughts on “Administrative Correspondence

  1. Pingback: Administrative obstacles (and why they won’t work) | Divest IC

  2. Pingback: Administrative Correspondence: Rally to DivestIC! | Divest IC

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