Administrative Correspondence: February Board of Trustees Meeting

The Ithaca College Board of Trustees met for their biannual meeting in California last month. Part of DivestIC’s campaign is working towards creating a Socially Responsible Investing Committee to bring together students, faculty, administration, and board members to discuss where our institution’s endowment is invested. We have also requested that two members of the board attend a Divestment conference at Hampshire College to represent our school. This is the correspondence between DivestIC and members of Ithaca College’s administration and Board of Trustees about the board meeting that happened in February and the administration’s commitment to these two things.

February 18, 2014

From: The Environmental Leadership and Actions Network

To: Nancy Pringle, President Rochon, Tom Grape, Chris LaCroix 

Dear Nancy Pringle, President Rochon, Tom Grape, and Chris LaCroix,

My name is Jessie Braverman and I am a member of the Environmental Leadership and Actions Network, a student organization at Ithaca College dedicated to promoting social and environmental justice through direct action.

Last semester you met with DivestIC members Rebecca Billings, Olivia Salindong, and Rebecca Newman to discuss our progress as a club, reiterate the necessity for complete fossil fuel divestment, and to discuss the Socially Responsible Investing Committee we plan to create. The Socially Responsible Investing Committee will be a collaboration between students, faculty, administrators, and Board of Trustees members to discuss what investments would appropriately align with the values of our institution and community.

At the end of the meeting last semester, DivestIC committed to having the name of two students who will be part of this committee. We asked that you also have the names of two board members who would be interested in participating by the end of the February board meeting. We also asked that you send representatives to the divestment conference at Hampshire College.

We are writing again to remind of you this commitment, and to also request that you discuss the Socially Responsible Investing Committee at the board meeting this week, and respond with the names of those interested in participating by two weeks after the meeting.

After almost two years of actively working towards an open dialogue between the students and the administration, we are determined to push the leaders of our community to take action for positive and necessary change.

Thank you for your time and commitment and we look forward to hearing from you soon.

Jessie Braverman
The Environmental Leadership and Actions Network
DivestIC.com

February 18, 2014

From: Nancy Pringle

To: The Environmental Leadership and Actions Network

Jessie,

I have attempted to reach you by phone but have been unable to find a telephone contact for you so please accept this message as a follow-up to your email of February 18, 2014. The Investment Committee of the Board of Trustees has reviewed the following two action requests made by DivestIC and requested that I convey to you the results of their review:

1. Your group requested that a member of IC’s Board of Trustees or administration participate in the Hampshire Conference in April. The committee has requested that a member of the College’s external investment firm, Prime Buchholtz, attend this event at Hampshire College. The firm has agreed to send a representative on the Board’s behalf and this individual will report back to the investment committee following the conference.

2. Your group requested that the Board discuss the socially responsible investment committee that DivestIC is planning to create with a goal of working towards complete fossil fuel divestment at Ithaca College. You also asked that the Board choose and confirm three Board members to serve on this committee. By way of clarification as to the commitment you articulate in your February 18, 2014 correspondence, there was never an agreement made by the Board to name board members to this newly created socially responsible investment committee. At the February Board meeting, the investment committee discussed the socially responsible investment committee to be created by DivestIC and made a determination that it would not be an appropriate fiduciary role for members of the board to serve on this committee in their capacity as board members. As indicated in previous correspondence with you, there is a commitment on the part of the Board to create a fund for socially responsible investment within the College’s investment portfolio but this will take place through established board committee procedures and with board oversight.

Both of the above decisions were reviewed with the entire Board and there was unanimous consent in support of the Board investment committee’s recommendation on each of the questions from the DivestIC group. Please note that the Board believes they have given serious consideration to your questions and therefore the responses provided are final.

I wish you the best as your semester enters into its final weeks.

Nancy Pringle
Secretary to the Board

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We will not be silenced.

by Abby Togliatti 

For the past year I have been working on the fossil fuel divestment campaign at Ithaca College. The main purpose of this campaign is to divest Ithaca College’s endowment out of the fossil fuel industry (read blogs below to learn more). Most people see this movement as a purely environmental campaign, but to me it is so much bigger than that. It is a social movement, requiring institutions to recognize the way in which their money perpetuates inequalities and inequities of all kinds. The endowment at Ithaca College is our money. It does not belong to specific individuals and those individuals should not be the only ones dictating where our money goes. Yet this is the process that occurs at every college across the nation.

For the past year we have had on and off conversation with members of the administration and Board of Trustee members. Most of these correspondences have ended in some way of trying to silence us, trying to push us aside, trying to tell us that divestment from fossil fuels is not a priority at Ithaca College. The most recent communication we have had with the administration was with Nancy Pringle, Secretary and General Counsel to the Board, telling us that we will not be presenting about divestment at the BOT meeting this upcoming fall (this was one of our requests at the rally this past spring), but offering us a meeting with Thomas Grape, the Chairman of the Board, as long as we have “new” information to share.

How can Ithaca College possibly commit to sustainable and socially responsible practices if they are directly supporting industries that cause environmental and social injustices? How can Ithaca College disregard student, alumni, staff and community member action against their contradictions as a college? How can Ithaca College, an institution of higher learning, discourage the changes we are trying to make for the better?

By offering us this meeting with Thomas Grape, the administration is not opening up an ongoing dialogue with us. Alternatively, I feel as if their offer is more of a way to silence us. If we give you this meeting, we are giving you what you want, you will be happy and leave us alone. But it is NOT enough! You are not going to silence us! I am not happy! I want more from the administration. I want all administrators and Board members to feel just as passionately as I do about divestment from fossil fuels. But the way in which the administration is talking to us and not with us is inhibiting the progress we are trying to achieve with the divestment campaign here at Ithaca College. I want to be working on this nationwide strategy to make the world we live in a better place alongside those in power, not against them.