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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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A&M, UT student governments work on joint legislation

Academic Building
Photo by File
Academic Building

This week, the student governments of Texas A&M and the University of Texas will pass joint resolutions on March 6 and 7 focused on eliminating unethical companies from their investment portfolios. The subject was the focus of a three-month investigation by The Battalion into Texas A&M’s investments in fall 2015. This is the first-ever joint resolution passed by the two student governments.
Finance senior Spencer Davis, former news writer for The Battalion and now Vice President of Municipal Affairs in the SGA, conducted the investigation into A&M’s investments. Both the A&M and UT systems receive money from the Permanent University Fund, or PUF, a fund that goes directly toward scholarships, faculty salaries and student programs.
The PUF is managed by the University of Texas Investment Management Company, or UTIMCO, which was invested in 10 of 25 companies on the Texas Comptroller’s list of those directly involved in Sudanese Genocide. The money invested in these companies by UTIMCO accumulates money for the PUF, where UT receives two-thirds of the payout and Texas A&M receives the remaining third.
Companies UTIMCO invests in have violated human rights in Qatar and the Democratic Republic of Congo, ignored sanctions against Iran and have been accused of international bribery, among other unethical violations.
The resolutions passed by both A&M and UT student governments will create a negotiations team consisting of members from both universities to correspond with UTIMCO in order to reestablish a higher level of cooperation in shareholder engagement, Davis said.
“We want to work with them and say, ‘Hey if you have to be invested in these companies, fine, but let us take our complaints to the companies,’” Davis said. “The big part of this is that it is a process where we want to go and discuss in a fruitful manner the character of the companies we are invested in and what we can do if we don’t agree with some of the things that we find them to be doing.”
A historical first piece of joint legislation like this requires participation from both universities. Business junior and UT Speaker of the Assembly Santiago Rosales said the legislation enables each university to truly represent what they stand for.
“This will be a really great way for us to live up to our value statements as universities,” Rosales said. “At UT, the slogan is ‘What starts here changes the world,’ and the business community has a profound impact nationally and globally, and to have the potential for student voice in this conversation is pretty exciting.”
Joseph Hood, government and public services senior and Speaker of the A&M Student Senate, said this bill will allow students to enjoy benefits of the Permanent University Fund while ensuring the money is clean.
“I don’t think students of good conscious can continue to enjoy those things with a good conscious,” Hood said. “I really believe that if students were aware then they would say ‘there are other options for us to be investing in.’”
Multiple members from both the UT and A&M student governments have been involved in the process of coordinating such a large effort. UT representative and business junior Connor Madden said this is the most exciting part.
“I think any opportunity that we have to cooperate to benefit the higher institutions of our state is really exciting,” Madden said. “Our purpose is just to advocate on behalf of students, and ideally this piece of legislation allows us to do that in a way that will bring lasting, tangible change to UTIMCO and eventually results in better student advocacy at that level.”
Coordinating a bill that represents more than 100,000 students has been the biggest challenge, according to A&M communication senior and Executive Vice President Dan Rosenfield.
“The hardest thing has been coordination with University of Texas because they have a different structure,” Rosenfield said. “You have to make sure that you have both student governments on the exact same page, because if one word is different part of the meaning is lost.”
After months of investigations and negotiations, Davis said the end goal is finally in sight.
“The outcome is being able to know that the scholarship money of myself and my friends is not being funded in some way, shape or form even if it is just pennies coming back to us of companies taking advantage of genocide,” Davis said. “It’s knowing that we have student direct input working with the university in making the world a better place by using our endowment.”

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