LSA SG passes resolutions in support of LEO, investigation into endowment investments

Wednesday, February 14, 2018 - 11:40pm

LSA student Government committee representatives present their agenda at meeting in Mason Hall Wednesday.

LSA student Government committee representatives present their agenda at meeting in Mason Hall Wednesday. Buy this photo
Chun So/Daily

LSA Student Government passed five resolutions Wednesday night, including one in support of the Lecturers’ Employee Organization’s negotiations for a new wage contract and another calling for an investigation into potential conflicts of interest in investment of the University of Michigan’s endowment. The latter resolution was introduced and approved in time for LSA SG to join a group of student organizations also requesting further transparency before the Board of Regents’ meeting Thursday afternoon.

LSA SG representative Amanda Delekta, an LSA junior, co-sponsored the resolution.

“The regents, who are supposed to overlook the investment of the endowment, passed the responsibilities largely on to a financial executive committee,” she said. “A number of those individuals have been investing the endowment into their own enterprises, which is obviously a large conflict of interest and there has not been a lot of oversight with the issue.”

The Free Press recently reported that the University invested portions of its nearly $11 billion endowment in funds run or owned by major donors.

In an email interview, Assistant Vice President for Public Affairs Rick Fitzgerald disagreed with Delekta’s characterization of the investment process.

“Her statement is completely false,” Fitzgerald said. “The regents do oversee the endowment.”

According to an endowment Q&A with the University, the investment process involves recommendations from a team at the Investment Office. These are made to the University’s chief financial officer, who then takes suggestions to the Board of Regents for approval.  

“Regents vote on all new university investments,” Fitzgerald said.

The SG resolution passed with 19 votes in favor and three against. SG members debated whether the allegations of conflicts of interest had merit and if calling for an investigation might needlessly incite the Regents.  

Representative Jordan Schuler, an LSA sophomore, said he didn’t see how an investigation could hurt, especially if the claims about the endowment, as University President Mark Schlissel wrote in an op-ed in the Free Press, are false.

“Passing this resolution doesn’t necessarily say that we believe there is severe malpractice, but passing it does say that it’s worth finding out,” Schuler said.

The resolution in support of LEO’s bargaining efforts comes two days after the University responded to the union’s salary proposals. The union, which represents non-tenure track faculty across all three University of Michigan campuses, is asking for higher wages and enhanced job security. On Monday night, the University proposed a $1,000 increase to the starting salary for lecturers in 2019, followed by a $750 increase in 2020 and then $500 in 2021.

Appointments Committee Vice Chair Brooke Lennox, an LSA sophomore, sponsored the resolution.

“Showing as much support as we can is important,” she said.

Three bylaw amendments were also passed, one of which requires representatives to use gender-inclusive language during official LSA SG events and in communications.

Diversity Affairs Committee Chair Corrina Lee, an LSA sophomore, offered an “unfriendly amendment,” as she felt a phrase mandating LSA SG members “shall make an effort to use gender-inclusive language” was too “flippant.”

“I appreciate the sentiment behind this,” she said. “Obviously we should all be using inclusive language, but seeing the way it’s worded I reject it. It’s seems easy to disregard. I don’t feel like that’s a real culture change.”

Secretary Hunter Arcand, an LSA senior, disagreed.

“I don’t think this clause is flippant whatsoever,” he said. “When people make an effort, it makes a massive difference.”

The amendment ultimately failed, and the LEO resolution passed with 23 votes in favor and none against. 

The two other bylaws amendments replaced the Communications Committee’s former with Campus Complaints, a more streamlined and accessible web page and instituted instant runoff voting for internal elections, meaning if no one wins a majority in an election then the candidate with the fewest votes will be taken out of the running and those ballots awarded to the person listed as the voter’s next choice.