Reviewing Divestment

January 31, 2005

In October, Duke's board of trustees approved a measure creating two committees to review concerns from the Duke community about the social responsibility of university investments.

Their action provides a process for pursuing the guidelines on socially responsible investing that the trustees approved in February 2004. According to the guidelines, the "primary fiduciary responsibility" of the trustees is to produce a favorable financial return on Duke's resources and thereby produce the funds needed to support the university's activities. Before considering a symbolic financial action, the trustees will expect the university community to engage in "substantive discourse" on an issue, and to express "broad concern that substantial social injury is being caused."

Trustees adopted the guidelines and procedures in response to recent requests from Duke students that the university divest from companies doing business in Sudan, Israel, and other countries. Under the new procedures approved by the trustees, recommendations for socially responsible investing from the Duke community will first be reviewed by the President's Special Committee on Investment Responsibility (PSC).

If this first committee decides that a corporation in which Duke invests is causing "substantial social injury" and that a "change in the company's activities could have a direct and material effect in alleviating such injury," it will recommend that a second committee review the matter in greater depth. The second committee, the Advisory Committee on Investment Responsibility (ACIR), can then recommend a course of action to the president.