A group of Knox students are joining together to ask that the Knox endowment be made transparent.
The Knox Endowment Initiative has been in the works for over a year, but has now approached over 20 clubs and organizations, including Student Senate, in hopes that the student body will approve of a transparent endowment. The initiative plans to host open forums next fall.
“We believe that transparency is a value of the college, as ‘Veritas’ is our motto and it’s something we pursue actively on campus, so we believe this falls in line with what the student body believes in, what the faculty believe in, what the staff believe in,” said sophomore Eden McKissick-Hawley, who’s part of the Knox Endowment Initiative. “And so far, we’ve received a lot of overwhelming support from people.”
The Initiative began when sophomore Elyse McGloin attended a KARES meeting as a freshman and began to wonder about the status of the endowment, which is nearly $140 million. Since then, the group has expanded to seven members, including Director of Sustainability Froggi Van Riper and Professor of Psychology Tim Kasser.
Ideally, the Board of Trustees would release quarterly or annual snapshots of the endowment on a password-protected website. The site would be available only to members of the Knox community, including students, faculty, staff and alumni.
However, the group plans on preparing fully before presenting to the Board of Trustees.
“We want to make sure we’ve talked to everyone who has something to say about this. We want to make sure we’ve fielded every tough question, we want to make sure we’ve thought about every implication, and that’s why we want to make sure we’re committed to hearing from different groups on campus and individuals as well as Student Senate’s feedback is really key for us,” McKissick-Hawley said.
The group has now approached Senate twice and asked for suggestions for the proposal.
“Their main concern was we want to create a committee that would be a conduit between the campus voice and the Board of Trustees, and that’s where it got sticky because we don’t really have the details worked out, so that’s what we want to keep communicating with Student Senate and the rest of campus about,” McGloin said.
Most of Senate’s suggestions revolved around logistics and details of the proposal. Once Senate approves the initiative’s definition of transparency, the initiative will continue to prepare a committee that would serve as the conduit.
“I think everyone on Student Senate can agree that we do agree with a transparency. And we do agree that since schools that are better ranked than us do have a transparency when it comes to their endowment, so that’s the obvious thing,” said Shannon Caveny, sophomore secretary-elect of Senate. She was initially surprised by how small the endowment is, and is worried about where the school may be investing its funds.
“I think there was just a fear that the board would continue investing in something because they had to because the endowment’s so small, but the chances of that happening are very small anyway. Other schools our size have an endowment that’s 5 million dollars,” she said.
Right now, Knox ranks at a zero in transparency with the AASHE (Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education) Stars (Sustainability, Tracking, Assessment and Rating System) program, but if the school were to increase transparency, this rating would improve.
“I think transparency is something a lot of institutions around the country are aspiring to because of these AASHE reports so if Knox got this, it’d be really huge for us,” said sophomore Emma Downing, who’s also part of the initiative. Providing transparency is not necessarily a widespread practice, but it would put Knox ahead in its group.
“It’s not something I ever thought of before. … If that’s something that students are looking at, then by all means let’s make it transparent. It’s not something I ever thought would be an issue or brought up,” Caveny said.
The group hopes to continue refining its plan until it can be brought before the Board of Trustees.
“No one’s shut us down. Student Senate has actually been super helpful, and we just hope to keep working out this proposal until the community’s happy with it and until everyone’s comfortable enough with it to take it to the board,” Downing said.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly titled Professor of Psychology Tim Kasser “Director of Psychology.” We also incorrectly stated that the endowment is $1.4 million; it’s $140 million. We apologize for these errors.