by Katie Orndahl, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
UNC's vice chancellor for student advancement and chief fundraiser Matt Kupec recently resigned after an investigation showed that he used university money for personal trips.
This resignation should be viewed as an opportunity for UNC to take another unfortunate scandal--we've had our fair share over the past year--and use the incident to do something positive with its $2.2 billion endowment.
The endowment represents the bulk of UNC’s financial power and how it is managed has a far-reaching impact beyond the borders of our campus. After pledging to be stop burning coal on campus by 2020, we are still funding destructive coal mining and burning in other communities by investing in coal and utility companies through our endowment. Looking forward, UNC should seize this chance to break the mold of secretive endowments and engage the UNC community in a dialogue about how the endowment functions, how it is used and what it is invested in.
As a large, well respected public university, UNC has the power to make a major impact through its investment decisions.
Placing an emphasis on transparency and social responsibility would allow UNC to create a process for making investment choices that would drive innovation and promote social justice, such as divesting from coal.
Past responsible investment initiatives at UNC have helped address genocide in Sudan and apartheid in South Africa, and coal should be next.
Committees on investor responsibility, divestment and screened funds are all reasonable, financially responsible tools to improve the social impact of our investments.
UNC can do more than damage control here, and our reputation depends on it.