Student Voice Enters Board of Trustees Investment Committee

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In February, senior finance major Chelsea Mathews was the first student representative to attend the Board of Trustees Investment Committee, the group which determines how USF invests its money.

Until Mathews attended, this was the only board of trustees committee of 13 that did not have a student representative present at meetings. All other student representatives on the board of trustees committees are executive student government officers.

Mathews is a co-creator of a student committee called the Student Transparency Investment Committee, known as STIC. The group is dedicated to securing student input in the school’s investments for years to come.

Mathews says having a student representative will further improve the Board’s investment group’s efforts to invest ethically. “The [board group] was already pursuing investments using Jesuit values-based, ethical guidelines,” Mathews said. “Future investments will ultimately be presented at the meetings where the student representative will provide input from the student perspective, preventing investments in industries/companies that are environmentally damaging, have known human rights violations or are socially unjust.”

STIC meets among themselves twice a month, where members and their faculty advisor, environmental studies professor Stephen Zavetoski, work to educate and inform Mathews from the perspectives of finance, environmental studies, social justice, according to Noelle Murry, a student who helped form STIC.

Murry said that these meetings are closed to the public, but STIC is planning on holding public forums, where students can come forward to say which issues they want the group to address.

Although Mathews provides input on behalf of USF’s student body, the representative does not have a vote in the board’s investment decisions.

“I think this was a step in the right direction, from both administrators and students, to bridge any communication gap that existed,” Mathews said in an email, referring to the creation of STIC. The student group’s formation was in collaboration with environmental professors, student government advisors, finance department chair Frank O’Hara and Vice President of Business and Finance Charlie Cross.

“We were pleased to have Chelsea Matthews join the Investment Committee deliberations this year,” Board of Trustees Chairman Stephen Hamill said in an email statement. “We value the contributions of students who are interested in the Investment Committee [and] look forward to welcoming another student with appropriate investment knowledge to committee in the fall.”

The nomination process for the STIC student representative is unique.

O’Hara first chooses two senior finance undergraduate students who have a good understanding of the concepts within their field. These nominees then submit an application and then are interviewed by Cross and the undergraduate student government president. Finally, the members of the board’s investment committee themselves approve one of the nominees.

In its full form, STIC is comprised of its main student representative and five other student members, according to Murry. Faculty advisors must be from either the politics, international studies or environmental studies departments so that the STIC student representative can receive input from a non-finance perspective, Mathews said.

STIC is one of two offshoots which evolved from its predecessor, the Transparency Committee, ultimately replacing it. The second group, which Murry leads, is the Jesuit University Social Transformation (JUST) campaign, a student-led independent campaign dedicated to advocating for sustainable and socially-just practices by USF.

For example, the JUST campaign wants to end the use of pesticides that use the carcinogen glyphosate, such as Roundup, on campus. The campaign is also interested in ending the Coca-Cola Co. contract at USF, which they argue causes excessive plastic waste, negatively impacts student health through widespread sales of sugary drinks and supports a company accused of human rights violations in Colombia, Murry said.

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