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Review of Stanford's Statement on Investment Responsibility

Updated Feb. 20, 2018
 
The Review
 
The Board of Trustees has initiated a review of Stanford's Statement on Investment Responsibility and the university's related procedures for addressing investment responsibility issues. This review will take place over the course of the 2017-18 academic year. The Advisory Panel on Investment Responsibility and Licensing (APIRL)composed of faculty, students, staff and alumniwill play a central role in conducting outreach to the university community and collecting feedback to inform the review.
 
In announcing the review, the Board of Trustees noted that "APIRL members and groups that have been involved in the divestment request process have raised questions and concerns about the Statement on Investment Responsibility and related procedures. These questions and concerns have centered on ambiguities in the current statement that make its requirements for divestment difficult to apply; the efficiency of the process for acting on a divestment request; and other elements of the process in general." Further concerns have to do with what we have learned about the limits of divestment as a means of changing company practices or exercising shareholder responsibility.
 
In coming weeks, the APIRL will be engaging with former panel members, groups that have made divestment requests in the past, and others in the campus community who have expressed interest in investment responsibility issues. You also are welcome to provide input using the web feedback link below.
 
Posing questions
 
We encourage you to provide input on two overarching questions:
 
1. How would you improve the university's Statement on Investment Responsibility?
2. How would you improve the processes by which the university considers requests for review of investment responsibility issues?
 
Context
 
As members of the community reflect on the issues and provide input, it is important to provide context regarding the purpose of the endowment and its relationship to the academic mission of the university.
 
First, the university's endowment is a unique and irreplaceable source of funding for its academic mission.  It is funded by the gifts of donors for the specific and sole purpose of supporting the educational and research missions of the university, and doing so in perpetuity.  The fiduciary duty of the Trustees in managing the endowment is therefore not only to preserve the endowment, but also to invest in a manner that produces sufficient returns, ensures that current and future generations of scholars will have sufficient assets to support their work, and is consistent with Stanford's core values. Moreover, the Trustees note that Stanford Management Company, the university's investments office, understands that long-term investment success coincides with an appropriate regard for human and environmental welfare. Stanford Management Company therefore incorporates ethical and social issues into its investment work, and always operates in close observance of accepted moral principles.
 
Second, as an educational and research institution, Stanford seeks to foster an environment of academic freedom and freedom of thought in which ideas and perspectives from across our diverse community are openly expressed, within a culture of inclusion and mutual respect. One consequence is that Stanford generally avoids taking institutional positions on issues of broad political debate that would marginalize or silence those in our community who hold different views - unless the subject matter directly relates to our ability to carry out our mission or is fundamentally at odds with the university's core values.  Similar considerations govern decisions regarding investment of the endowment, which was established to support the academic mission of the university, rather than being used as an instrument for supporting or opposing the political objectives of individuals or groups within the university, however worthy those objectives may be. As a result, there has been a high bar for divestment at Stanford, reserved for consideration under specific conditions outlined in the Statement on Investment Responsibility. 
 
The university, with the support of the Board of Trustees, is committed to helping faculty and students address major issues of the day through the university's academic offerings - that is, through campus discourse and debate, research, educational programs, public service, field work, policy analysis, career exploration and other programs. As part of this review, we welcome ideas and suggestions for further expanding these offerings in order to more fully address the interests of our academic community in applying the university's mission of research and teaching to the pressing problems of our world.
 
The web feedback period is now closed. Thank you for your input!