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Action in accordance with our principles

Alyssa Sappenfield | Wednesday, October 6, 2010

In response to Sarah Furman’s viewpoint in the Sept. 24 issue of The Observer about ethical investments (“A call for ethical investment”), I read some interesting and troublingly dismissive responses on The Observer’s website. Some people have argued that the NLRB settlement closes the issue and that students who are raising concerns about HEI are drawing the matter out unnecessarily, or that the Notre Dame magazine article concerning Scott Malpass and his investment strategy is enough of an explanation of the University’s “ethical investments.” The article from the 2007-2008 winter issue states that the University investments are held to the standard of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and their investment principles. Drawing on this, the USCCB website states investors must seek “investment opportunities that meet both our financial needs and our social criteria…[specifically] 1) refusal to invest in companies whose products and/or policies are counter to the values of Catholic moral teaching or statements adopted by the Conference of bishops; 2) divesting from such companies.” Also, the USCCB calls on the necessity of active corporate participation of investors in any case, but especially when the questions of ethical investments are being voiced “to influence the corporate culture and to shape corporate policies and decisions.” In dialogue with the University, these specifications by the USCCB have not been carried out, or at least the University has not mentioned their efforts, if there have been any, which is suspect because it seems logical for the University to underscore these activities if the students are demanding evidence of ethical investment.

Due to the lack of progress from the University about the ethical considerations of its investments, I decided to visit a few HEI owned properties this summer to personally inquire about the condition of their workers. I spent a week in the Los Angeles area talking with workers about their jobs and the stories I heard were far more troubling than I imagined. I spoke to a worker about the missed breaks that had occurred for the last three years and she explained further that they were a result of more extensive problems of staff cuts and increased work loads, all intended to increase profit. Not only was this mother of three working longer and harder under HEI management without the respite of breaks mandated by California state law, but her wages are too low to cover the cost of healthcare provided by the company. She had to take on a second job working nights after working long days at the hotel, hardly seeing her children and still just barely scraping by. Other workers I spoke with shared similar stories.

These conditions are making people suffer and our University is standing by. Notre Dame prides itself on encouraging students to be involved with social justice, so we should act in accordance with our principles and set an example for others.

Alyssa Sappenfield


Oct. 5