The Knox Endowment Initiative is hoping to meet with the Board of Trustees Winter Term after Student Senate voted to write a letter to the Board encouraging its members to meet with the individuals involved in the Endowment Initiative.
The initiative is a group comprised of students, staff and faculty members working to increase the transparency of Knox’s endowment investments. The group aims to develop a platform, like a password-protected website, that would allow Knox students, faculty, staff and alumni to learn what the college invests in and be able to provide feedback to the Board.
The initiative has officially been in the works for about two years and was presented to Student Senate last spring. This fall, students involved in the initiative presented to the Senate body once again, asking for its endorsement to move forward and talk to the Board of Trustees.
In its meeting Monday night, Student Senate voted separately on two requests brought to the general assembly by the Endowment Initiative. The first request, which was that the idea of transparency aligns with Knox’s values, passed unanimously with several abstentions.
The second request was that Senate support the idea that the Knox Endowment Initiative’s specific proposal for attaining endowment transparency is a good way for to begin the conversation about these issues with the Board of Trustees. This request did not pass, with 10 senators supporting the statement, 12 opposing it and several more abstaining from voting.
Junior and Dining Services Chair Max Wallace chose to not vote in favor of the second request because the plan still needs to be finalized after being reviewed by the Board.
“We don’t really want [Senate’s] name attached to something that might ultimately not be in the student’s best interest because we can’t know whether or not something that’s incomplete is in the student’s best interest,” Wallace said.
Junior and Senate representative Liliana Coehlo said that she thinks the disagreement over the second point came down to a misunderstanding about why the second point was vague. She noted that it was vague for a reason, as it only serves to begin the conversation with the Board.
“I think what I understood from it though, it’s not that, ‘Yes, we believe that every single thing is right.’ It’s just that we believe that this group should move forward as a starting point,” Coehlo said. “I just think that we could have had the trust in them to do it in an appropriate way.”
After not backing the specific initiative, Senate voted to put pressure on the Board to speak with individuals involved in the initiative and to write a letter in Winter Term encouraging the Board to do so.
“We’re super excited that they endorsed especially the spirit of transparency. Everyone seemed really interested in that, beyond just our group. The idea of them not wanting to have their name on a specific proposal, it’s understandable,” said senior Miranda James, who is a member of the Endowment Initiative.
With the support from Senate’s letter, members of the Knox Endowment Initiative hope to meet with the Board or one of its subcommittees when Board members are on campus for their meeting in February. Ultimately, the Board will determine when it will meet with members of the initiative.
One of the concerns brought up by members of the Senate body is that of security. Wallace noted that even if the endowment information is on a password-protected website, it can easily be screenshotted and shared.
Members of the Endowment Initiative maintained that despite this, the release of endowment information will serve to recruit and retain students.
“I work in the admission office and I’ve also had questions about transparency on campus particularly regarding endowment from a lot of parents, but also some students as well. Just in my experience there does seem to be an interest in transparency among the public,” junior Annalyn Chia, who is a member of the initiative, said.
Junior and Senate representative Zooey Brewer said that one of her concerns about the current plan is the mechanism through which members of the Knox community would provide feedback to the Board. She said that she thinks before any endowment information is released, the Knox community should be educated about how an endowment works and how the Board makes decisions about its investments.
Members of the Knox Endowment Initiative noted that in some ways endowment transparency is most important for faculty and staff members, who will likely be at Knox for longer than students.
“I’ve tried to do what I can in my life to live by my values and since the endowment helps pay for my salary I’d like to make sure that that’s living by my values too — or the community’s values at least,” Professor of Psychology Tim Kasser said. Kasser has been involved in discussions supporting endowment transparency before the Endowment Initiative officially formed.
Junior and representative Morgan Madderom voted to support the group’s specific presentation. She noted that most of the people that she knows are in favor of supporting the initiative and that Senate’s job is to represent the student body.
“I hope at least by senior year that this project has progressed further,” Madderom said. “Maybe we’ll even have it by the end of my senior year.”