Bring socially-responsible investing to Notre Dame
Letter to the Editor | Friday, April 26, 2019
Miguel and Clara were fleeing violence and death threats in Honduras and hoped to seek asylum in the United States. Clara was pregnant and pursuing a safe life for her unborn child. However, they knew that when they went to seek asylum, Clara and the newborn, Paloma, would be separated from Miguel, who would be sent to an ICE detention facility for up to three years while their case was being heard. In our trips to the border, including a Notre Dame immersion seminar, we met Miguel and Clara, as well as many other families like theirs. As Catholics, we are passionate about protecting the rights of the poor and vulnerable who come into this country seeking safety and a better life.
Our University strives to be a leader in higher learning and a role model for Catholics across the world. Therefore, we hold a commitment to the values of Catholic Social Teaching, which include the utmost protection of the life and dignity of the human person, especially the most vulnerable. The separation of families caused by ICE detention centers and private prisons is a gross violation of human dignity and goes against the values of our University.
Currently, the vast majority of our faculty and staff — around 95% — invest in private prisons and ICE detention facilities through the University’s 403(b) retirement fund. These facilities are places where the dignity of human beings is blatantly violated. The impact that the for-profit prison industry has had on America is staggering; this issue affects us all. Though you may not know one of the 128,000 people detained in private prisons across the country, you may be familiar with our nation’s mass incarceration and recidivism problem, which has decimated thousands of communities, predominantly communities of color. The United States tops the list of countries with the highest incarceration rate. We currently hold 25% of the world’s prisoners, yet only 4.5% of the world’s population. Private prison corporations such as CoreCivic and GEO Group — the two companies whose stock is included in the retirement fund investment portfolios — are massive contributors to these problems. As institutions that run for profit, there is a strong incentive to fill each bed and keep people locked up for longer. These perverse financial incentives are trapping individuals in a harmful cycle.
Upon meeting with the Notre Dame HR office and speaking with members of our community on campus, it seems that the majority of our faculty and staff are completely unaware of this investment. Essentially, our Notre Dame employees are unknowingly profiting off of human bodies. We ask that the University creates a socially responsible investment alternative for our faculty and staff. Employee benefits should not come at the expense of others’ dignity.
If you believe our University should support our faculty and staff by allowing them to invest in accordance with their values, we invite you to show your support by signing our petition, following us on Facebook and Instagram (@notredamesri) and sharing this letter.
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.