University Affairs | Sept. 30

Resources Committee finds PCER proposal for transparency “unwieldy”

The Resources Committee called recommendations for greater transparency by the student group Princeton Coalition for Endowment Responsibility “unwieldy, unnecessarily complicated and inconsistent” with policies of the University, Princeton University Investment Company and Board of Trustees in a report released this summer.

In its November 2012 proposal, PCER asked the Resources Committee to alter the way in which it reviews and considers University investment decisions, especially in terms of representation in the committee and transparency.

PCER’s proposal requested access to the University’s investment information in order to facilitate “sustained campus interest” in investment issues. The Resources Committee report, however, said that this request was not feasible.

“In terms of direct oversight over investment decisions or even direct access to the investment decisions, that’s just not going to happen,” Deborah Prentice, a psychology professor and chair of the Resources Committee, said. “And that’s not in our power to give. We don’t have that.”

Prentice added that there are “a variety of reasons” that the details of the University’s investment portfolio cannot be made public, including the fact that releasing information to the public could affect the value of the investment.

PCER also requested a change in the representative makeup of the committee, the report says.

“PCER was asking for greater transparency about how the Resources Committee worked, and they wanted better representation of students in the oversight of investment of University funds,” Prentice said. “I think they wanted an elected committee.”

The report, however, dismisses this request, stating that the values of the University “are not subject to popular vote.” According to the Princeton website, there are currently three student positions — two undergraduates and one graduate — on the committee.

Prentice said the committee is open to establishing greater transparency about what the committee is doing, though.

“We have very much moved in the direction of trying to get greater transparency,” Prentice said. “We were on board with the spirit of their recommendations regarding transparency.”

In order to increase transparency, the Resources Committee said in its report that it will publish a calendar of meetings on its website, meet at least once a year with a representative of Princo to discuss investment issues, publish guidelines for bringing a concern to the committee and will consult the Council of the Princeton University Community, of which the Resources Committee is a part, when “an issue would benefit from broader input.”

“I agree that these are important issues to discuss. It’s been hard to get a discussion going,” Prentice said. “We don’t have a place where we voice these things; we just have a website.”

Members of PCER did not respond to requests for comment.

 

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