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Peer institutions suspicious of HEI

Kristi Haas | Thursday, April 22, 2010

It has become apparent that to the administration, neither National Labor Relations Board complaints nor the testimony of workers is a legitimate cause for ethical concern over investments in HEI. So, let’s consider something more basic.

No waking Domer could deny that the University strives to compete with her peers. She funnels money into research, fertilizer for the lawn where Notre Dame students are on hunger strike, financial aid, fancy dinners, tie-dye, teaching and beyond. Higher rankings ensue. Better yet, Notre Dame ventures beyond the territory of its peers to the meeting point of Catholic identity and competitive rankings. A 2007-08 Notre Dame Magazine article praised the “stricter ethical guidelines” of Notre Dame’s investments compared to her peers. Notre Dame uses the U.S. Catholic bishops’ Socially Responsible Investment Guidelines, which read in part: “USCCB will promote and support shareholder resolutions to promote generous wage and benefit policies and adequate worker safety guidelines.” For what it’s worth, I’m comforted Notre Dame accepts these clear-cut standards.

Still, there is room for improvement in implementing them. While Notre Dame stands idly, two respected peers have expressed qualms about labor practices at HEI Hotels & Resorts. Brown President Ruth Simmons sent a letter to HEI expressing concern over alleged labor law violations. Yale, respecting Simmons’ judgment, committed to investigating the allegations against HEI and reconsidering the investment relationship.

Notre Dame can appeal to Catholic identity when it wants to depart from its peers’ practices. But our unique adherence to Catholic principles should have made Notre Dame the first among them to press HEI for better wages, benefits and worker safety. How can we stop sanitizing the demands of Catholic morality when they run contrary to Our Lady’s business relationships?

The point: In this case, Notre Dame doesn’t even need to invoke Catholic Social Teaching or the USCCB in order to do the right thing. Merely seeking to compete with our peer institutions is enough to warrant a reconsideration of our relationship with HEI. The broad road we’re on leads to a land that is neither Catholic nor in accord with what is admirable about our peers.

Kristi Haas
off campus
April 21