Daniel Shearer ’05 was kind enough to send in some comments on this posting about the Williams Social Choice Fund.
First I think this is quite different than the idea of raising funds for specific uses like sports equipment or the Record. All of the money donated to the Williams Social Choice Fund augments a principal that, when the fund becomes part of the Colleges endowment, will be used just as all other endowment funds. The interest will go toward the operations of the school. The only difference in this fund is how it is invested. It, therefore, provides the options for people who wish to donate to the school and would prefer their donations be invested in a socially responsible manner. Also, on a technical note, the Fund is not part of the current endowment because, with its new start, the Treasurers office is having it mature for a time and prove its growth potential before it is added. The principal is still part of the colleges finances and it is growing as the word gets out. The Fund has almost reached $10,000.
Also, I feel that the idea that the trustees have wisely shielded the endowment from political debates is misleading. Even if the choice to invest in a weapons manufacturer, or any company, is made solely on economic prospects, it has political ramifications and it is quite literally Investing in what that business does.
As for more info on the fund, you can ask me any specific questions you have and Ill try to find answers. We are trying to get a new web page up to help in advertising and education. It would be nice to have that up before xmas break but I don’t know if that will happen. There is a committee of alums and students working on the oversight, education, campaigning, and investment vehicle aspects of the fund. The ACSR is also looking at an appropriate investment vehicle for the 10% community development piece. Anyone that would like to take part in the funds oversight should contact me (Daniel Shearer: 05drs _at_ williams.edu) and anyone interested in donating should talk to the Development Office.
I’ll certainly be happy to post more information as it becomes available. I still think that the best policy is to separate the College’s endowment policies (which should be maximum return at minimum risk) from any and all political disputes. Although all right-thinking people (read: Not me) may agree that the College should not invest in weapons manufacturers, once you let politics into the process, it is hard to know where to stop. Perhaps the College shouldn’t invest in chemical companies (bad for the environment) or pharmaceutical firms (drug prices are too high) or . . . insert your pet cause here.
But, having a separate fund that does only nice things may well be the best way for Williams to go, at least in terms of gift maximization.
Shearer’s point about investing in a company having political ramifications is well taken in so far as, by investing, you lower the company’s cost of capital and increase its likelihood of success. Indeed, in my day job I try to act as the whiphand of global capitalism, but that is a topic for another day.