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Ethical Investments

In “Change-Makers” by Elizabeth Redden ’05 (spring 2020), Redden writes, “Morgan Simon ’04 wants you to know one thing about money: Investing it wisely can help bring about social change.” Tell that to Swarthmore College! The alumni profiled in the article are pioneers in ethical investing. Yet, ironically, if their own alma mater hired them to manage its endowment, it would bar them from making ethical investments. 

In 1991, just one year after fully divesting from apartheid South Africa, the Board of Managers instituted a policy to manage the endowment based solely on financial returns, not “other social objectives.” This policy has been in place for nearly 30 years. 

The Board has repeatedly used it to dismiss student-led divestment campaigns around fossil fuels, Israeli occupation, and the prison industrial complex. Such dismissals seem even more out of line with Swarthmore’s values as COVID-19 reveals the ways in which these unjust systems lead to disproportionate suffering. 

Swarthmore students started the college fossil-fuel divestment movement in 2011, yet the College still lags behind Yale, Brown, and numerous other peer institutions who have already adopted ethical investment principles. 

Swarthmore should praise its ethically minded alumni. It should also learn from their example.