Senate to Appeal Wells Fargo Decision

On Thursday, November 15, the Wells Fargo Appeal Review Board, an ad-hoc committee of three trustees and two students, will hold an open discussion for Reed’s community from 5:30–7:00 p.m. in Vollum Lounge. This is an opportunity to hear directly from the committee about their process and discussions, as well as collect the concerns and thoughts of the Reed community.

The guiding questions of this discussion, as listed in an email from Dawn Thompson on Wednesday, November 7, are: “Is it possible to develop general principles to use in evaluating Reed’s vendor relationships that are consistent with the college’s operating principles and that do not force the college to take positions on political issues?” and “In deciding which vendors to transact business with, what weight (if any) should Reed place on corporate conduct relative to other factors such as economic costs and service requirements?”

It has been a little under a year since the Reed College Investment Committee declined to cut ties with Wells Fargo in December of 2017 after the student group Reedies Against Racism (RAR) demanded they do so. The Investment Committee claimed that it would violate specific principles and policies that shape the school and decision making. In their decision, the Investment Committee included a process that students could pursue in order to appeal their decision to the full Board of Trustees. At the end of last year, the Reed Student Body Senate chose to pursue the appeal process. They are still in preliminary stages, as they discuss the situation and outline a decision that they will present to the Board of Trustees in February.

Last year, RAR presented a list of their demands for the Reed College administration and set up camp in Eliot Hall to protest through occupation of the administrative space. One of RAR’s significant demands was for Reed to “cut ties with Wells Fargo,” Reed’s main operating bank. Their concern with Wells Fargo stemmed from the bank’s ethical standing regarding financial ties to private prisons, discriminatory lending practices and funding of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The Investment Committee claimed that cutting ties with Wells Fargo would violate Reed’s third Operating Principle, which states, “Because the College fosters and defends academic freedom, it avoids taking positions on political issues that do not directly affect the fulfillment of its educational mission.”

They also included data attempting to claim that Wells Fargo’s involvement with the private prisons and the Dakota Access Pipeline are minor involvements compared to the whole. The response notably “affirms that Reed’s core mission is educational, not political,” as its rationale to continue using Wells Fargo as Reed’s operating bank.

Student Body Vice President, Natasha Baas-Thomas, is one of the students on the Appeal Review Board. Their job, she said, is to “recommend and present” a decision on the Wells Fargo appeal to the Board of Trustees, who will then vote on it, making a final decision.

The Appeal Review Board is currently discussing and organizing many aspects that must be considered in order to make a decision about Reed’s operating bank. Baas-Thomas said some of these aspects include implementing a reviewing policy “to review a vendor or a direct business relation.” This is highly relevant, because in addition to the concerns RAR brought to light about Wells Fargo, federal sanctions were imposed on the bank last February in response to “years of misconduct” according to The New York Times.

In addition to a vendor-review policy, Baas-Thomas indicated that their response will likely include a decision regarding whether or not Reed should cut ties with Wells Fargo as Reed’s operating bank.

“This is important because a lot of students put in a lot of time and were extremely passionate about trying to change the operating bank,” said Baas-Thomas. “This is the official procedure and to follow the official process to the end is important.” Students are encouraged to attend next week’s open discussion about the about the appeal process.

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