More Money Problems at the University of California

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The University of California is supposed to investigate each case involving potentially controversial stocks it holds as part of its endowment. This is designed to ensure that the state university’s financial investments are in line with its ethical commitments.

Except it turns out it the university system generally doesn’t bother. According to an article by Tess Townsend published in the Bay Citizen:

Under U.C.’s proxy voting guidelines, the university is required to review case by case all shareholder resolutions that are “controversial or relate to social issues.” But thousands of documents obtained from sources and under a California Public Records Act request by The Bay Citizen show that, over the past two years, Institutional Shareholder Services, a proxy voting service, voted on behalf of U.C. against hundreds of resolutions that appeared to fall within the university’s guidelines.

Basically the university employs a voting service, designed to make decisions on the university’s investments based on the views and commitments the university has expressed in other realms. Through the voting service, Institutional Shareholder Services, Inc., however:

…The university voted against nonbinding resolutions that would have encouraged companies to set goals for lower emissions of greenhouse gases, carry out policies prohibiting discrimination against individuals based on sex or sexual identity, report political contributions, form human rights committees and improve treatment of animals. The university voted against 188 such resolutions in 2008, and at least 50 in 2009.

According to the article, Melvin Stanton, the university’s associate chief investment officer, explained that “Our focus is doing what is best to improve the financial wherewithal of a particular company. We’re not really focusing on social issues.”

The “financial wherewithal” of the University of California is actually terrible, however.

The system routinely cries poverty and last year faced an $813 million budget gap. In March several members of the university’s board of regents went to Sacramento to protest state funding cuts, which they said would destroy the university’s quality.

So wait, if your current practices both violate your stated policies and don’t make enough money, what exactly is your justification? [Image via]

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer