Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Unrealized Gain of $74,000 from ASWC Investments

In 2018, the Associated Students of Whitman College (ASWC)’s senate invested roughly $700,000. About 20% of that went into TIAA-CREF, a bond fund, while the other approximately 80% went into Trillium ESG, an equity fund. According to ASWC President Basil Shevtsov, the money was likely invested due to a surplus in ASWC’s budget back in 2018. Since these initial investments, no more money has been invested.

ESG stands for Environmental Social Governance score, which is a measure by which to assess the equity and sustainability of companies and firms. According to ASWC Finance Chair Bidita Nawar, Trillium ESG and other equity funds are focused on equity and sustainability in their investments.

“When they invest in any company, they keep the ESG standards in mind,” Nawar said.

Now, five years later, ASWC is bringing the investing conversation back to the table. At a senate meeting on Oct. 29, senators were briefed on the current state of ASWC’s investments. A copy of the investment presentation is available through the meeting’s minutes in the ASWC shared drive.

The equity fund has done well, with gains of around $100,000, while the bond fund has lost nearly $30,000. Between the two funds combined, there is an unrealized gain of about $74,000. Following the presentation, the conversation turned to the future, and what should be done with this money.

Shevtsov emphasized that ASWC’s investments are not only being done by students.

“We have a professional helping us make these decisions,” Shevtsov said.

Some senators have raised ethical concerns. According to Shevtsov, these included lobbying on the part of companies the money is invested in and environmental concerns.

Clare Duan is a member of the communications committee. She cited ethical concerns as a major point of consideration when choosing how to move forward with the funds.

“We’re trying to balance economic decisions with being socially conscious,” Duan said.

Nawar weighed in on ESG as an ethics metric.

“There’s a lot of talk around ESG [and if it’s] actually a good indicator of a company or firm’s social and sustainability aspect,” Nawar said.

Right now, the big question is what should be done with the money.

“What percentage of money we can withdraw yearly, without actually disrupting the growth or completely depleting the whole fund [has been calculated] … We could be removing a percentage of that money right now, but that percentage is so small that it really would be practically insignificant,” Shevtsov said.

That means that the two options are to leave the money where it is or withdraw it all. If the money is withdrawn, the question then becomes what should be done with it.

“We can give that funding to student clubs. [We] could give that funding more to WEB [Whitman Events Board]. We could put that into the emergency fund,” Shevtsov said. “There’s countless possibilities where this extra money could go.” 

Another possibility that has been brought up is using the money to subsidize student fees. Students paid $422 each towards ASWC this year. There is some speculation amongst ASWC members that this was the initial purpose of the investments, but there’s no knowing for sure.

“As far as I’m aware, there is no written up long term plan for these funds,” Shevtsov said.

Nawar argued that subsidizing student fees was not the most effective use of money.

“I don’t think that lowering the student fees is necessary because if you’re on financial aid, student fees are covered by financial aid … [A reduction] wouldn’t really make a big change [for] people who are actually paying student fees. And it’s not sustainable,” Nawar said.

The decision of what to do about the investments is one that ASWC will continue to discuss, and one for which they’re interested in hearing student input. 

“We really only have attendees that come to senate … for their clubs … but we really want students to come too,” Duan said. “The money should benefit students in some way, or at least be used in a way that students agree with.” 

Shevtsov agreed with Duan, encouraging students to interact with ASWC in the best way they can.

“We want to hear your voice … If you can’t make it to [a] senate meeting, that’s okay. You can send us an email and tell us what you think … It’s very, very easy to reach us,” Shevtsov said.

Conversations about investments are still ongoing, and likely will continue for some time.

“From my perspective, it’s not a high priority topic … This isn’t something that is very pressing, but it’s good that we’re starting the conversation now,” said Shevtsov.

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