As multiple emails have informed me, tonight is the Kick-Off Event for the Partnership for a Responsible Endowment (6-8pm, Room 102 of the law school). I'm taking a seminar on corporate governance at the moment, so the sight of another set of activist shareholders is mildly entertaining, if only to imagine Columbia University's getting added to an M&A defense lawyer's On Notice list.
(The "Business Casual" is from Colbert's list, but is likely to apply to the average BigLaw partner as well.)
Having just posted my belief that Columbia should take a stance on the vexed issues of the day that are fundamental to its constituents' well-being, as well as an endorsement of disinvestment as a method of bringing about change in foreign nations, I feel that I should clarify why I am skeptical of a university's taking up activism in the realm of corporate governance. I think most of the people who join the Partnership probably have a good handle on many progressive issues, such as the importance of labor and environmental standards, and I'm glad that they will push Columbia toward investing in the community that surrounds it. I think this sort of stakeholder attitude truly does serve the university's long-term interests, as we're going to be in Morningside Heights and points north for a long time and need the goodwill of our neighbors.
I'm a great deal more doubtful about whether the Partnership ought to get involved in shareholder resolutions and proxy voting guidelines. These are areas heavily regulated by the SEC and state law, so prodding Columbia to take a leadership role means more work for the university's lawyers. I'm also skeptical as to whether the Partnership will have sufficient expertise as to what is the best action to take in these areas. See below for the full email announcement:
The Columbia Partnership for a Responsible Endowment invites all interested students and student group leaders to our 2007 Kick-Off Meeting!
Wednesday, October 3, 2007, 6-8pm.
Jerome Greene Hall Room 102.
(Jerome Greene is the main Law School building on the corner of Amsterdam and 116th street. Room 102 is on the first floor near the entrance.)
Don't miss the first meeting!
Come learn more about the Partnership's goals and how the Partnership can support your organization's work. Specifically, Students for a Responsible Endowment -- the student representation in the Partnership -- brings together students and student groups from across the University to advance common goals, collaborate, share ideas, and network.
The ways in which Columbia invests its massive endowment can either support or work against progressive change. The Partnership aims to unify students, faculty, staff, the administration, and alumni in support of
responsible investment policies and principles. Through leveraging the endowment, we will bring tactical unity to many causes, allowing a voice for one progressive issue to support many others simultaneously.
The Partnership is open to new goals. Affiliated students and groups are already working to support:
- Community Investing
- Co-Filing Shareholder Resolutions
- Proxy Voting Guidelines
- And other means of Shareholder Advocacy at Columbia University.
RSVPs are appreciated but not necessary. Please send RSVPs and any questions to ResponsibleEndowment@gmail.com. Please forward this invitation to peers and student group memberships.