University News

Corporation to evaluate strategic plan, coal divestment

The trustees and fellows will also celebrate this year’s opening of the School of Public Health

By
University News Editor
Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Corporation will consider President Christina Paxson’s strategic plan draft at its meeting this weekend and discuss holding a vote on divesting the University’s endowment from large coal-affiliated companies, said Russell Carey, executive vice president for planning and policy.

Members of the Corporation — the University’s highest governing body — will kick off the meeting Thursday by convening for individual committee gatherings, Carey said.

The Corporation will take up its formal business of the weekend at its meeting Saturday morning, when all votes — likely including a vote on the strategic plan — will be conducted, Carey said.

Corporation members will also discuss the tenets of the strategic plan, “Building on Distinction,” during their committee meetings, Carey said.

Carey said members have been “engaged in discussion throughout the past year” and even earlier about the  plan’s areas of focus and recommendations.

“It’s been an ongoing process,” he said.

Paxson publicly released the draft of the plan Sept. 18, and Brown community members have participated over the past month in a public comment period on the plan’s proposals. The strategic plan contains a host of priorities, including expanding the size of the faculty and student body, growing the University’s presence in the Jewelry District and bolstering graduate education programs, The Herald previously reported.

Carey said he could not anticipate “the shape or substance of the discussion” this weekend on the strategic plan, but added that Corporation members held a special session in August to discuss the strategic planning process.

Corporation members will discuss whether to vote on withdrawing endowment funds from large coal-affiliated companies, Carey said. But he said he could not guess whether the body would take any formal action on the issue.

The question of divesting from companies that profit from coal has spurred debate on campus after the student group Brown Divest Coal launched a campaign requesting the University divest from the 15 largest coal companies in the United States. The Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Practices recommended in April that the University divest from coal, The Herald previously reported.

Following ACCRIP’s vote, Paxson convened a review committee in April to study the impact of divestment and to report its findings to the Corporation, The Herald previously reported.

Though Brown Divest Coal has called for Corporation members with financial interests in the coal industry to recuse themselves from a vote on divestment, Carey said he had no specifics on whether any members will do so for a potential vote.

All individuals involved in Brown’s governance abide by the University’s conflict of interest policy, and Chancellor Thomas Tisch ’76 monitors the policy’s enforcement among the Corporation, Carey said, adding that Corporation members are aware of the policy’s guidelines.

The weekend will also feature an event Friday evening at the School of Public Health’s building to commemorate the School’s launch this year, Carey said.

The event will be “more of an informal social gathering” rather than an official building dedication, and it will be a chance for faculty members, staffers and community members to celebrate the school, he added.

The Corporation approved the creation of a separate School of Public Health in February, The Herald previously reported.

Public notifications about large-scale financial gifts to the University typically coincide with the Corporation’s meetings, but Carey said he could not comment on whether such gifts will be part of the meeting this weekend.

Corporation Trustee Steven Cohen P’08 P’16 has been charged by U.S. prosecutors in a civil suit related to a federal investigation of Cohen’s hedge fund, SAC Capital Advisors, but Carey said he could not comment on whether the Corporation will admonish Cohen for any alleged wrongdoing.