Every two years, University President Peter Salovey appoints two students — one from Yale College and one from the graduate and professional schools — to sit on the Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility, which weighs the ethical implications of endowment investments and makes formal investment recommendations to the Yale Corporation.
But this year — as student activists continue to urge the University to divest from fossil fuel companies, private prison corporations and hedge funds that hold Puerto Rican debt — the appointment process took a competitive turn.
Traditionally, the Graduate and Professional Student Senate has submitted nominations for the graduate and professional school representative to Salovey. But last fall, for the first time, the President’s Office invited the Graduate Student Assembly — which represents students in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences but not professional school students — to take part in the nomination process.
The senate and the assembly “fought over” the right to nominate candidates after the President’s Office announced in an email that the two student organizations would take turns putting names forward, according to Etienne Greenlee GRD ’19, the former graduate and professional school representative on the committee. Greenlee said that “frustration and upset emails” between the two groups significantly delayed the nomination process until Vice President for Student Life Kimberly Goff-Crews intervened. Goff-Crews settled the debate by asking both student governments to submit nominations.
“Everybody thought this again would be a senate position and then the President’s Office emailed saying that this position alternates between the senate and Graduate Student Assembly,” Greenlee said. “And then there began some tension.”
Ultimately, the assembly and the senate nominated two candidates each, said Savannah Thais GRD ’20, president of the senate. In an email to the News, Goff-Crews confirmed that both groups put forward two nominees, and said Yale will continue to use this process moving forward. Ultimately, Salovey appointed Brian Bink GRD ’22, one of two candidates nominated by the GSA, to the ACIR. Assembly president Wendy Xiao MED ’18 said her group’s nominees were voted on by the general assembly.
Bink, who will serve on the Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility until June 2019, said that, although he had heard of what he described as “a bit of a debacle,” he tried his best to stay removed from it.
“By the time I heard anything about the ‘debacle,’ it came across as gossip — not something I’m interested in,” Bink said.
Thais said her group’s major concern is that both graduate and professional students should have a voice in the selection process, which is not possible if only the assembly has a say.
She declined to share email exchanges between the two student organizations, on the grounds of confidentiality.
Still, Thais noted that the agreement brokered by Goff-Crews requires that student representatives from either the assembly or the senate report to both organizations on the work of the ACIR. In recent years, the ACIR has debated the merits of divesting from the oil company Exxon Mobil and held meetings with Yale Students for Prison Divestment.
Thus far, Thais said, Bink had done a good job liaising with senate.
“Because the [ACIR] meetings are confidential, he can’t share explicit details with the assembly or senate,” she said. “He will bring back a summarized report of ‘This is what we are talking about, this is probably what we are going to recommend,’ and he does that for both the assembly and senate.”
Thais noted that the ACIR is different from any of the other University-wide committees in which her group is represented because the ACIR representatives are ultimately selected by Salovey.
“Usually, we elect someone internally and that person is then on the committee, but, for the Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility, in their bylaws of the committee, [it says] the appointment is made by President Salovey, not by the student groups themselves,” Thais said.
The ACIR consists of eight members: two faculty members, two staff members, two students and two alumni.
Jingyi Cui | email@example.com