Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 9
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

ASWC Seeks Student Input on Divested Funds

On Dec. 3, the Associated Students of Whitman College (ASWC) voted to divest funds from Trillium ESG and government bonds. This decision followed several months’ discussion of ethical concerns relating to the investments. On Feb. 11, sophomore Meghan Kearney, ASWC Communications Chair, sent out a form to students asking them to weigh in on how the funds should be utilized.

The form included a brief description of the fund, which currently totals $855,536. This year, up to $150,000 can be withdrawn. 

 Kearney shared that the survey had not yet gotten many responses as of Feb. 16.

“Last I looked, there [were around] 10 [survey responses] and it’s definitely people who are more interested in their personal interests or things that pertain to their club,” Kearney said.

First-year Elias Kean is this semester’s Oversight Chair. He suggested that the lack of responses would slow the process of allocating funds.

“Our goal is to represent the student body to the best of our abilities, and especially with … not always great response rates from the student body, that can make it very difficult to act quickly, especially with something like this,” Kean said.

But this isn’t the only factor causing slow progress. Out of a desire for carefulness as well as bureaucratic concerns, ASWC is planning to move slowly. Kean explained that the legislative process will take time.

“From a legislative point of view, there’s a lot of bylaws that both have to be interpreted and worked through, as well as bylaws to be added to address where we are right now. Because some of the background with all of this is … there was nothing in place within the “rules” of ASWC, or not as much oversight as there needs to be [for the fund],” Kean said.

Junior Maximilian Walthers, ASWC’s Finance Chair, added that the decisions made now will likely have far-reaching impacts, which is important to keep in mind.

“I just want to be careful because whatever decision we make and how we deal with this process will set the tone for future ASWCs and how they deal with a big amount of money. And that requires being careful [and] being very open,” Walthers said.

“We don’t really have a reason to rush it … with money, you should always go about it in a more thoughtful way,” Kearney said.

Walthers also shared that though there may not be a concrete timeline, some planning will be accomplished this term. Planning involves discussions Walthers is having with the member of administration who has been handling the fund. Walthers did not disclose this administrator’s identity.

“At the end of the semester, there will be a plan. It does not mean that [that] plan can’t be changed … I think within this big process, there is going to be lots of meetings, lots of discussion. I’ve had about 20 already regarding this big amount of money and just finance in general. And I think as finance chair the goal for me is to meet with the leadership groups and to have bigger discussions … especially [with] the minority students on campus,” Walthers said.

Both Kearney and Kean also emphasized the role of communication as important. Answering questions from the student body is one of Kearney’s top priorities, and transparency is one of Kean’s major goals.  

“I think transparency is going to be really important. It’s my understanding that not a lot of people know about these funds, and I think that that should be important going forward: having some communication with the student body [about] where [the funds are] going,” Kean said.

When asked whether a lack of transparency had been a problem in the past, Kearney said that COVID-19 has damaged ASWC’s communication with the student body.

“With COVID-19 a lot of things changed. And we’re coming from a place where we did a lot of reorganizing, especially with bylaws. There’s just been so much change and now it’s up to us to get that information out there,” Kearney said.

She encouraged students to seek out more information about the funds, saying that the form was only the beginning.

“If people want to come to Senate meetings, those are open and they can ask questions. If people want to look at the bylaws, that’s really great. I think [the survey] is a good opener for people to be like, ‘Oh, I don’t know much about this. Maybe I should look in these places,’” Kearney said.

 

Editor’s note: Meghan Kearney is a humor writer for The Wire.

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  • S

    Student fee payerFeb 22, 2024 at 12:45 pm

    “We don’t really have a reason to rush it … with money, you should always go about it in a more thoughtful way,” Kearney said.

    Wow, laughable to read this quote when the actual ASWC divestment process was rushed through with very little oversight and terrible transparency. ASWC should be embarrassed about this whole thing.

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