The Transcript reports on how “Conscience Guides Some Williams Funds.”

A group of Williams College alumni, students and professors are promoting the Williams Social Choice Fund, a growing aspect of the college’s endowment that invests both in socially responsible programs and community development.

The only Eph quoted in Daniel Shearer ’05. I’ll try to get some more information from him. The article noted:

Last year, the trustees accepted the social choice funds under the terms that 90 percent of the money would be invested in socially screened mutual funds and the remaining 10 percent be invested in local community development — for low interest loans for organizations such as area businesses and non-profits.


Help is being given through the college’s Development Office by sending out letters to alumni, asking for donations to the Williams Social Choice Fund.

The investment policies that the College uses to in managing its endowment have been a controversy for many years, at least back to the 1980’s disputes about divestment from South Africa. For the most part, the College has tried (wisely) to shield these policies from political disputes. At some point, the College created the Advisory Committee on Shareholder Responsibility (ACSR) which

advises the Finance Committee of the Board of Trustees on matters pertaining to the College as a stockholder. Chaired by one of its faculty members, the Committee consists of two students, two faculty, two alumni, the Vice President for Administration, and the Provost. Student members are elected by the student body at large; faculty and alumni members are appointed by the President.

I always felt that this was a brilliant ploy for making controversies fade away. Those interested in a thoughtful analysis of the issue by two Williams students (and former ACSR members) should look here.

What’s most interesting about the story is the fact that the College is, apparently, allowing (even facilitating) alumni to donate money outside of the main alumni fund process. It has always seemed to me that the College was loath to go that route.

After all, you could run fund raising in a very different, more decentralized, way. Right now, for all practical purposes money from alumni all goes through the College administration before it gets spent on all manner of items. Imagine, instead, a world in which students (even faculty) are encouraged to raise money from alumni for projects that they care about. Students at the Record could solicit for new computers. Football players could raise funds for better equipment. And so on.

I am not certain that this would make for a better process, either in terms of total funds raised or the distribution thereof, but I have always heard that the College has no interest in such a scheme. This article is the first (tiny) evidence to the contrary that I have seen.

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