Last week President Robert Zimmer and Chief Financial Officer Nim Chinniah met with two students to discuss possible alternatives for the creation of a Socially Responsible Investment Committee (SRIC), which students have been pushing strongly for the past year. Although this may have been the most efficient way to hammer out the basics of a negotiation, the creation of a SRIC is an issue that involves the entire University community. As we wrote in Friday’s editorial, an overwhelming majority of student voters supported the creation of a SRIC last spring, and the logical next step is to host an open discussion that involves both students and administrators. Before any alternatives are seriously considered, it’s vital that students have a say in what they voted for.
Tomorrow, President Zimmer will be meeting with students in his quarterly open forum. These discussions, which seek to give undergraduates an opportunity to ask Zimmer about University issues, historically attract an abysmally low turnout. However, close to 40 students attended last spring’s open forum, and grilled Zimmer on the creation of a Socially Responsible Investment Committee. The fact that students filled a coffee and donut study break to get Zimmer to address this particular concern suggests that that there should be an open talk among Zimmer, University financial administrators, faculty, and any interested students that focuses solely on the future of a SRIC. As the Maroon reported in its coverage of last spring’s open forum, “Both Zimmer and [Kimberly] Goff-Crews reassured students that dialogue regarding socially responsible investments would continue next year.” Although Zimmer and Chinniah’s meeting with two student representatives counts as dialogue, such an important topic deserves more open discourse.
Our university prides itself on an environment that fosters freedom of expression and effective discussion. If an overwhelming majority of student voters have called for the creation of a SRIC, it’s irresponsible for the administration to say the plan is simply unfeasible and ask for alternatives without hosting an open discussion with the student body. Last week, SG hosted an open forum for another issue that has caused a similar amount of dialogue over the past several years: the lack of a trauma center at the University of Chicago Medical Center. The turnout was substantial, and the discussion was productive. As an issue that all students have a vested interest in, it’s sensible that the same type of open dialogue should be set up regarding the creation of a SRIC.
It’s nice that Zimmer and fellow administrators have not yet shot down the prospect of a SRIC. But no solution can claim to be legitimate if it was conceived as a compromise between the administration and a small number of SRIC leaders: Proposals should be rooted in discussions with the hundreds of students who provided the grassroots support for the idea in the first place. Regardless of the final agreement, the means are as important as the ends.
The Editorial Board consists of the Editor-in-Chief, Viewpoints Editors, and an additional Editorial Board member. Colin Bradley recused himself from the writing of this editorial.