During today’s faculty meeting, faculty members will discuss a motion to replace the Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Policies with a new committee that would have broader responsibilities.
The motion has received criticism from undergraduates and student coalition Brown Divest, who view the move as an attempt to complicate conversations over divestment with an “ineffectual” committee, according to a public statement the group posted on Facebook.
ACCRIP considers issues of “moral responsibility in the investment policies” of the University, according to their official charter. The proposed replacement committee — the Advisory Committee on University Resources Management — would expand on ACCRIP’s duties and “specifically (identify) issues related to social responsibility with regard to the endowment, business practices, labor issues, gift acceptance and other related matters,” according to the proposed motion.
Since ACCRIP’s responsibilities are only focused on investment policies, the committee was not able to fully consider “many issues of ethical and moral conduct that arise in the normal course of University business,” wrote Director of News and Editorial Development Brian Clark in an email to The Herald. With a “broader scope,” ACURM would allow community members to raise “pressing issues concerning core University values without being limited solely to matters of investment policy,” he added.
The proposed transition would also reduce the size of the committee from 11 members to eight. The number of faculty, student and alumni representatives would reduce from three to two each, while the number of staff members would remain at two.
Faculty had planned to vote on the motion during today’s meeting, but will now vote in the fall in order to give them more time to discuss the implications of the new committee.
Clark also cited “the need for careful deliberation” in “the context of questions raised by students who are not aware of the months of discussion and work that led to this motion.”
Whereas members of Brown Divest found out about the proposed motion May 1, President Christina Paxson P’19 first suggested increasing the breadth of ACCRIP’s responsibilities in November 2018, said Ross Cheit, professor of political science and chair of the Faculty Executive Committee, which manages faculty governance.
Following Paxson’s initial inquiry and discussions with members of ACCRIP and the FEC, Executive Vice President for Planning and Policy Russell Carey drafted the motion to form ACURM. The Office of the President informed ACCRIP members of a possible transition to a new committee in April, Clark wrote.
Following the coalition’s divestment referendum on the Undergraduate Council of Students’ ballot in March, Brown Divest presented at an April 16 ACCRIP meeting to outline their case for divestment from companies allegedly complicit in human rights abuses in Palestine, The Herald previously reported.
The transition from ACCRIP to ACURM “would just make it more difficult and bureaucratic to move divestment forward,” said Brown Divest member Brian Solomon ’19. Paxson made it clear “that she wants us to move through channels of ACCRIP."
But Clark wrote that the proposed change is “not a response to this spring’s divestment referendum.”
If the proposed motion is passed, ACURM would still act as the appropriate pathway for Brown Divest to submit a request for divestment consideration, Clark added.
Brown Divest also expressed concern with the proposed committee’s structure and increased responsibilities.
In their public statement responding to the motion, Brown Divest wrote that they felt ACURM’s broader charge would overburden the members of the committee — who meet for an hour once a month — “so that actually achieving any resolution is practically impossible.”
“This is a deliberate effort to dilute (the) focus on divestment related issues,” they wrote.
In response to Brown Divest’s statement, Cheit told The Herald that the ACURM motion is “not an effort to dilute the committee, it’s an effort to give the committee more authority to look at the range of issues, like investment, that raise ethics issues across the University.”
The expanded mission of ACURM “would allow this committee to look at Brown’s purchasing as well as Brown’s investing, and that makes perfect sense to me,” he added.
Brown Divest also questioned the smaller size of the proposed committee. “If the scope is expanding, so should the membership to support the greater amount of labor that would be needed to achieve their objectives in a constructive and timely manner,” the coalition wrote in their public statement.
The committee’s reduced size reflects a broader goal of the FEC to make University committees smaller so that faculty can devote time to other responsibilities, Clark wrote. In addition, the proposed committee’s smaller size “reflects a recent decrease in workload for ACCRIP,” he added.
But “if people think (the committee is) better in its current size,” the motion could be revised to keep 11 members, Cheit said.
Brown Divest also expressed concerns that ACURM would give Paxson greater influence over who joins the committee. Under ACCRIP’s charter, faculty members are elected by other faculty; but if the ACURM motion were to pass, candidates would be chosen by a committee that would consult with the president after voting faculty receive nominations.
“President Paxson should not have this much power to influence the makeup of a University committee that is charged with advising her on key investment issues,” Brown Divest wrote.
The increased presidential oversight of ACURM membership designation is consistent with the appointment processes of the University’s other advisory committees to the president, Clark wrote. “This practice of consultation is consistent with the goal of robust shared governance.”
UCS Appointments Chair and Vice President-elect Jason Carroll ’21 expressed concern with the “lack of transparency” and student input in the ACURM motion, he wrote in a statement to The Herald.
“These are faculty motions,” Cheit said. “I understand that (ACCRIP) is a committee that also has students on it, but … the FEC’s role is to think about faculty issues.”
If the proposal passes, current ACCRIP Chair Chi-Ming Hai, a professor of medical science, and other ACCRIP members would be invited to serve on ACURM.
“Several ACCRIP members, including myself, would like to continue our contribution to Brown by serving on ACURM,” Hai wrote in an email to The Herald.
Correction: Due to an editing error, a previous version of this article misidentified Brian Solomon’s pronouns. The article has been updated to reflect Solomon's correct pronouns. The Herald regrets the error.