Members of Greenboard slated to meet with trustees Friday to discuss Reed’s contentious investment practices
Six members of Greenboard will be meeting with members of the Board of Trustees on Friday as part of an ongoing process pushing for Reed to change banks from Wells Fargo and, more broadly, update Reed’s operating principles and investment policy. While Reed’s divestment movement has been actively advocating for reform in these areas for multiple years, Friday’s meeting with the Trustees will kick off an official legislative process to review the disputed “political neutrality” section of the college’s operating principles. “It’s been a long battle to get here,” explained Greenboard member David Snower. “This meeting is a huge opportunity for us.”
Debates over divestment have been ongoing on the Reed campus for decades, dating back to Reed’s investment in companies that supported apartheid in the 1980s. Recent divestment pushes by student groups such as Reedies Against Racism (RAR) have centered around Reed’s involvement with Wells Fargo, a bank with deep ties to the prison-industrial complex, support of the Dakota Access Pipeline, and questionable business practices, which are the object of an ongoing federal fraud investigation. Reed’s investment in fossil fuel companies, which was revealed in the Paradise Papers, has also been central to Greenboard’s and Fossil Free Reed’s divestment campaigns.
Now the campus divestment movement has reached an important breakthrough. In late December, members of Greenboard wrote a letter to Acting President Hugh Porter outlining many of their ethical concerns with Reed’s stance on political neutrality and the Investment Responsibility Policy. Criticizing the notion that “political neutrality” is aligned with “the college’s standards of critical and scholarly thought,” the letter asked the Board of Trustees to “commit to student involved critical review and reform of the Investment Responsibility Policy and relevant sections of the operating principles.” The letter also questioned the fiduciary viability of investment in Wells Fargo and fossil fuels, since the long-term stability of the college could be severely impacted by “the critical issues of climate change and racism.”
In his response to this letter, Hugh Porter outlined the process by which Reed’s operating principle of political neutrality could be reviewed. Greenboard will have to pass legislation through the Student Body Senate and the college’s Legislative Committee, then pass a review by staff and faculty. Ultimately, however, decisions about the investment of Reed’s endowment must go through the Board of Trustees, which makes Friday’s meeting all the more vital. “The Trustees could be the limiting factor,” Snower explained at a Greenboard meeting on Tuesday. “The only way to open up a conversation on divestment with them is to really have our stuff together.”
This process will take time, however. Senate and the Legislative Committee already have a lot on their hands this spring, from modifications to the dissent policy to the implementation of a restorative justice policy, so any changes to the way Reed invests its endowment will likely take more than one semester to finalize.
Despite everything, Greenboard remains optimistic. “We really appreciate the opportunity to meet with the trustees,” said Arek Rein-Jungwirth, another member of Greenboard, “and we encourage Porter to personally advocate for divestment.” Greenboard is also planning to write a letter to the Presidential Search Committee advocating for a future president that will take the environmental impacts that Reed College has seriously, since the next president will likely have an important role in the passing of divestment-related legislation. For now, it seems that years of protest may finally have a chance to pay off.