VSG Senate: Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013
- a. Call to Order, Speaker Neely
- b. Roll Call, Deputy Chief of Staff Tanner Floyd
- II. Old Business, Speaker Neely
- a. Open Floor for Vanderbilt Student Body
v Students raise concerns or comment on issues that they would like addressed by the student government
-Matt Brennan spoke about dinner discussion w/ Professor Alexander to be hosted on 1/30
- III. Presentation of Resolutions
- a. Resolution S:12-13-06: Instituting a Guest Pass Program for Vandy Basketball
-Senator Landis presented the resolution. He noted that this proposal has already been brought to Vice Chancellor Williams, who is in support of such a program.
-Technical question, Senator Gregor: Number of seats?
Landis: 2000, additionally the ticket price fluctuates depending on interest from the public.
-Senator Owen moves to previous question, Senator McKittrick seconds
-Attorney General Pruitt takes a Role call vote
-The bill passes
- b. Resolution S:12-13-07: Commitment to Sustainable Investments
-Senator Brennan presented the resolution along with Michael Diamond of the Alternative Energy Club and Skyler Hutto of SPEAR. Mr. Hutto notes the reasons for Vanderbilt University being included on the Princeton Review’s list of green institutions, including the Green Fund program as well as the LEED certification legislature passed by VSG in the 2011-2012 school year.
-Mr. Diamond spoke about the specifics of the legislature, particularly the language regarding “hydrocarbon exploration”. He mentioned the inevitable negative consequences of the combustion of hydrocarbons beyond 1/5 of the currently known reserves. He made the claim that this lead to fossil fuel investments potentially being overvalued by 5 times their future amount. Mr. Diamond continued to say that the presenters felt it would be for the good of the endowment to divest from these investments.
-Senator Brennan stated that passage of the resolution would recommend to the administration that this topic is something the student body feels strongly about, and reiterated that the intention was not to harm the endowment in any way.
-Technical question, Senator Owen: Have you spoken to the Office of Investments about this proposal? Michael Diamond: Yes, but they have not responded.
-Technical question, Senator Gregor: How would the Office of Investment know if this would be a profitable investment 5, 10, etc., years in the future? MD: We have full faith in the capability of the fund managers to successfully determine which investments will be profitable.
- “ Senator Roth: What is the definition of the term “significant harm” in this language? Skyler: Up to Office of Investments to determine.
- “ Senator Escamilla: Why raise this issue now, when there has been no response from the Office of Investments?
- “ Senator Rao: Wouldn’t it be risky to invest in these uncertain energy companies? Skyler Hutto: The process has a 5-10 year timespan, so the risk is minimized. Senator Brennan: The resolution does not state that hydrocarbon investments should be replaced with green technologies. Michael Diamond: There is inherent risk in betting on the behavior of governments to honor their stated commitments to fuel use. Senator Brennan: The way in which a University invests its money is a statement.
-Senator X: ? Skyler Hutto: The results of a 2011 survey show that 75% of Vanderbilt University students
-Senator Bayles: How many students were in the study? Skyler Hutto: (uncertain)
Senator McKittrick: There are no down sides to this resolution, and I am in support.
Senator Gregor: It is not feasible to cease all investment in all types of hydrocarbons. He does not support this resolution
Senator Roth: Removing our investments will not bankrupt any of these companies. He is in support.
Presenters: This bill does not say that all hydrocarbon exploration is bad, only that new reserves should not be added to the pile of current reserve.
Senator Landis: To echo Senator McKittrick, I trust the ability of the Office of Investments to pursue successful investments which improve the fund, without the impetus of the bill, so I do not see the potential for negative repercussions from the passage of this bill.
Senator Escamilla: The way we vote on this bill will set a precedent for how the students express their feelings by pressuring the administration.
Senator Rao: If the investors for the University are so competent, this bill will be nothing more than empty words, which would be harmful to the reputation of the organization
Senator Y: This bill does not represent the interests of the students.
Senator Brennan: We have the prerogative to speak on the behalf of the students, that is why we were elected.
Senator Owen: Between 4 and 15% of our economy is invested in these types of businesses. With the current political climate, it is not a good idea to weaken the endowment. That said, our endowment has been doing very well in recent years, and recommending to the University that put themselves in a position for potential harm is a bad idea.
Senator Werner: This is a good recommendation to make, and nothing more.
Senator Landis: The resolution does not call for picking worse stocks instead of better, only that sustainability be brought into the investment considerations.
Senator Yarlaggada: We should ask the student body what they think.
Senator Moore: I think this entire thing is a good idea. We want to show that we are a student body of people who care about the world. Historically, these have been safe investments, but I trust the Office. I support this.
Senator McKittrick: I still support this, it is less political than other resolutions that we have struck down in the past.
Senator Owen: The language relating to “significant harm” to the is too dangerous.
Senator Z: Passing this bill will bring us into line with the student body.
Senator Gregor: This bill would put the University at risk for harm. It is not good to assume that the students would want to place the sustainability above the economic feasibility of the University.
Skyler Hutto: This is not about harming companies through our investments, this is about being consistent with our values. It is important to remain on the Green Honor roll, due to the effects this has on the academic standing of the university.
Senator Brennan: We are not privy to the details of our endowment, so the resolution is worded with the phrase “significant harm” in order to send a message to the Office of Investments while allowing them room to use their own discretion.
Senator Pinsky: This resolution sends a message: We want to focus on this more than we have in the past.
Senator Escamilla: This will have an effect on our public perception due to the uncertainty from this sort of statement.
Senator X: I agree with Senator Escamilla, we need to be hesitant in passing a resolution when we don’t know how the student body would feel about this financial matter.
Senator Landis: I disagree with Senator Escamilla, we have passed this type of bill in the past. The entire student body doesn’t need to support an issue for it to be considered, and we shouldn’t limit ourselves only to the issues we ran on in our platform. We should pass productive legislature without returning for the opinion of every constituent.
Senator Rao: Reads a quote from Cambridge report discussing the investments practices already in place This bill does not do anything, as the University already has this sort of policy in place.
Senator Brennan: Moves to previous question. The motion is seconded, proceeds to a roll-call vote.
-The resolution passes 16 – 11.
- New Business, Speaker Neely
- c. Upcoming VSG Events – Speaker Neely
v SPC Committee Meeting – February 3rd @ 8 PM in Rand 303
v Next Session – February 6th @ 7 PM in Central Library
- IV. Adjourn, Speaker Neely