Queen's University — Since 1873
24th October 2008

Clearer statement needed

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Last week the University released its statement on responsible investing, four months after the scheduled release date.

Covering Queen’s Pension Fund, Pooled Endowment Fund and the Pooled Investment Fund, the statement sets out provisions for how students may file complaints about the University’s investments. Vice-Principal (Operations and Finance) Andrew Simpson said it’s not meant to explain what constitutes ethical investing.

In 2007 Queen’s divested from PetroChina and China Petroleum after the group Students Taking Action Now: Darfur expressed concerns about the companies’ connections to the Sudanese government.

It’s disappointing that, after delaying the statement, it amounts to little more than a glorified complaints policy.

Although the statement was reportedly designed to give the University’s actions transparency, students still don’t know if the Board of Trustees looks into companies’ social history, political affiliations and labour practices before making investment decisions. They also don’t know why the University took so long to release the statement.

The statement makes provisions under exceptional circumstances for “special action” to be taken against a specific investment, which includes divestiture or the application of investment screens, but neither lists what those circumstances are nor which screens would be applied.

Queen’s used Yale University’s definition of “social injury” to inform the special action section; the University should have looked further at other universities’ policies to get a better sense of what to include in the rest of the statement.

Although it would be impossible for the University to outline specific ethical considerations regarding each company it invests in, the statement should have explained which factors are considered.

Instead, the statement merely reifies an existing option for students to express concerns over investments.

The University missed an opportunity to advance a proactive policy, instead choosing to shroud the statement’s purpose in self-congratulatory rhetoric.

Most students don’t have the resources to file freedom of information requests to obtain a list of the University’s investments. Without giving them the tools to access information on Queen’s investments, the administration has effectively negated students’ ability to critique them.

After months of delay, the University’s irresponsible, incomplete answer wasn’t worth the wait.

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