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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A Recap of Actions During the Biannual Board of Trustees Meeting

Photo by Sabrina Knight/The Ithacan

Photo by Sabrina Knight/The Ithacan

Jessie Braverman:

Last Wednesday marked the anniversary of Divest IC’s first action ever! Exactly one year ago we were in the same exact spot, standing strong outside of the Board of Trustees dinner, signs in hand, smiling faces, ready and eager to converse. While it may seem like our action this year was just a simple repeat of last year, the circumstances and reactions we got this year were significantly different.

After a year of hard work, challenges, learning, and growing, DivestIC returned to meet the Board of Trustees with a completely new mindset. We were not there to harass or intimidate anyone, but were offering support and demonstrating our interest in the decisions made about our school. We were there to share our knowledge about divestment and the racism, classism, sexism, and imperialism that the fossil fuel industry actively perpetuates, and to listen to what others were looking forward to share with us. A one sided conversation is fruitless, and only works to stagnate change rather than fuel it.

By the end of our first action last year, we had only had very short conversations with a few Board of Trustees members. The response we received during our action this year was incredible and unexpected, and demonstrates the immense amount of growth that has been made over the last year. We were ready to speak with everyone inside the dinner, and Board members were just as willing and excited to talk with us. We were able to speak with at least fifteen attendees who walked by and have very genuine and productive conversations about the importance of divestment. We were asked questions, given encouragements, and one alumni even joined us in line and held a banner that read “no rest until we divest!” We were not at all expecting this sort of response, and are overwhelmingly thankful and appreciative of the welcoming and accepting environment created by everyone there.

As students who attend a privileged institution, it is our responsibility to keep our school in check. We represent an integral part of the community that we have created here at IC, and need to be constantly critiquing ourselves and our actions. By keeping our institution and administration in check, we are also empowering and checking ourselves and our own privileges, while also holding ourselves accountable to our responsibility to think about the global effects of our lifestyles. Our friends living in the coal fields of Appalachia, our brothers and sisters in Manchester who are surrounded by an industrial army , our friends fighting desertification in Nigeria, and Indigenous communities in Canada who are constantly facing the attacks of colonization , are all fighting with all they have for their lives and to take back what is theirs. It is our responsibility to stand in solidarity with these folks and make sure their stories are heard so we can support them in any way we possibly can, while making sure not to speak FOR anyone else and to only represent ourselves.

It is our responsibility to engage others in these conversations as well. One goal of divestment is to attack the fossil fuel industry, but it is also to raise the voices of those who are often silenced and to engage people who might not think about these issues in their everyday lives. Institutional divestment is our way of standing in solidarity with frontline communities who are currently facing the immediate effects of climate change and the injustices the fossil fuel industry and other intersecting systems of oppression perpetuate.

While many campaigns are centered around appealing to those in power, Divest IC’s campaign approaches change a bit differently. We recognize that we are not in a place to make any decisions, but we also are not willing to give up our power to the “decision makers.” The power we have as students is unharnassable, and we will not allow decisions in our community to be made by a select few. The effects of climate change will disproportionately affect our generation, so it does not make sense to exclude us from the conversation. We are taking action to encourage inclusion and transparency, and to force the administration and Board of Trustees to be held accountable to their commitment to social and environmental responsibility and to think about how their actions and privileges affect our global community.

This is why we want the decisions made about our endowment to be inclusive and transparent. Students, faculty, administration, and board members need to collaborate with the goal of creating a space of understanding and questioning. The action we held last week outside of the Board of Trustees dinner was the first step towards this collaboration, and I am SO excited to continue working hard, pushing and challenging each other, actively listening to other stories and voices, and creating new and inclusive relationships.

For transparency, inclusivity, solidarity, and the shores of Cayuga Lake.

Rebecca Newman:

We are presenting to Thomas Grape, Chair of the Board of Trustees and Chris Lacroix, Chair of the Investment Committee today. I am so excited, but so nervous and anxious. I along with the other presenters Olivia Salindong and Rebecca Billings have been practicing non stop. We spent many hours trying to find the perfect combination of words to say exactly what we want to the members at the meeting. The time is here to actually present. We arrive early to set up and practice one last time so that we are comfortable in the room. Waiting is the worst when you’re about to present. We all try to ease the tension by making jokes and inspecting the pictures in the room. When the board members finally arrive we are relieved. Introductions are done and then we move into our presentation.

The presentation goes very well! Even if we were all nervous no one looked it. At the end of the presentation the board members asked a few clarifying questions and left understanding our goals and demands for this year. The first demand is to send a board member to a conference at Hampshire college in the spring and the second is to be part of a socially responsible investment committee that can work towards divestment.  As he left, Chris Lacroix said he was happy to see how passionate we are about divestment. This made us so excited, because we are passionate about this issue, which is why we were there to present. This comment combined with the positive response from the Board members on their way into to dinner has definitely given us a more positive attitude about the coming year. At the end of the meeting we were told that they would inform the other Board members about our presentation, discuss it, and then get back to us, which brings us to today.

Thanksgiving call to action

Dear friends,

Last week, students from across New York State came together to stake our claim in the fight against global climate change. We, along with young people across the country, agree that the most important thing students can do is ensure that our colleges divest from the fossil fuel industry. As we prepare to graduate and become an active part of our communities, we must do everything in our power right now to create the world that we want to exist in the future.

Students from over 50 colleges understand that divestment is the next imperative step in the movement to end the era of fossil fuel dependency. This Thanksgiving, let’s unify our individual campaigns in order to harness our collective power.

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