Continuing its leadership among institutions of higher education in the field of sustainability science, Unity College President Dr. Stephen Mulkey recently participated in the Intentionally Designed Endowment Student Forum.
Mulkey related how Unity College became the first major U.S. college or university to remove its investments from the top 200 fossil-fuel companies, leading the effort for other schools to join the movement.
“Divestment aligns the mission of higher education with its financial practices,” Mulkey told the panel, co-sponsored by the Intentional Endowments Network, the Responsible Endowments Coalition, and Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass., on Feb. 21. “It is unethical for institutions to invest in companies whose business model will inevitably lead to the destruction of civilization.”
During the fall semester 2012, the Unity College Board of Trustees voted unanimously to divest from investments in fossil fuels. As the first institution of higher learning in the United States to do so, Unity College became the standard bearer for a national movement, and Mulkey has become a recognized leader in articulating the case for U.S. colleges and universities to divest. Unity’s leadership on divestment under Mulkey includes mentions in The Boston Globe, Rolling Stone, Time Magazine, Maine Things Considered, The New York Times, The Nation, Bangor Daily News, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Huffington Post, Forbes, Grist.org, the Kennebec Journal, the Denton Record-Chronicle and others.
At the forum, Mulkey, an internationally recognized scientist with a Ph.D. in biology and ecology from the University of Pennsylvania, offered poignant commentaries detailing why the college divested. The commentaries focused on the need to develop a collective approach to addressing global climate change with systematic, comprehensive and scientifically informed policies that are colleges and universities’ very reason for being.
“President Mulkey is providing leadership within higher education concerning the need to address global climate change,” said Executive Vice President Dr. Melik Peter Khoury.
“It is critically important to empower these student movements, because it is ultimately the students who will hold us accountable for being on the right side of this issue,” Mulkey said. “Their future is at stake.”
The Intentionally Designed Endowment Student Forum examined the concept of ensuring that institutional investment practices consider the full range of emerging material issues related to sustainability, and do not inadvertently work against the mission or values of the institution.
“It involves being intentional about how investment decisions can both achieve the strongest financial returns possible, which are necessary to support the institution now and in the future, and contribute to creating a sustainable society, which is necessary to ensure a safe and stable future within which to operate. It is not to advocate any specific action or approach,” according to the panel program.
The forum brought together students, investment professionals, and senior administrators from dozens of universities and colleges to engage in a critical and collaborative dialogue around the concerns, strategies and methods of intentionally designed endowments. Some of the institutions represented include the State University of New York at Geneseo, Bentley University, Smith College, Green Mountain College, Mount Holyoke College, Antioch University, Western New England University, Arizona State University, Hampshire College, Oberlin College, the University of Vermont, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard Business School, Middlebury College, and Columbia University.
Mulkey’s participation focused on “Bringing the Whole Campus Into the Conversation” about intentionally designed investing.