Recently, ACUI leaders met virtually and made several commitments to continue living our core values, resulting in changes to the 2023 Annual Conference, the Association’s investment strategy, and avenues for volunteering.
“Every organization has struggled in the past 18 months, but this association’s core values are more than words, they’re a guiding force in how we make decisions,” said Dr. Jeremy Schenk from Northwestern University who currently serves as ACUI president. “I’m proud to be a part of an organization that leads with such conviction.”
2023 Annual Conference Location
ACUI was contracted to hold its 2023 Annual Conference in Orlando. However, following recent passage of discriminatory state legislation targeting the trans and nonbinary community, the Association opted to exercise its force majeure clause that included termination based on enacted discriminatory legislation. We remain deeply concerned about the Florida law and similar restrictions imposed in other states.
As noted in a June 2021 letter about Title IX sent to the Department of Education that ACUI co-signed, “Reinstating protections for gender non-conforming and transgender is especially important this year, given that 35 states have either proposed or passed 150 anti-transgender measures that limit the rights of these students to access resources and activities in alignment with their gender; 11 states have enacted such laws in 2021 alone. These students are being forced to play sports, be housed in facilities, and even access restrooms with the gender they were assigned at birth due to these state laws. The number of discriminatory measures considered at the state level targeting transgender and gender non-binary individuals has increased exponentially over the last several years, with measures considered in 2021 reflecting four times the frequency of those considered in 2019 (35 bills). There is a desperate need for federal regulations to codify LGBTQIA students’ rights in order to combat discriminatory laws.”
The Orlando property has released ACUI from its contractual obligations, and we will now begin a process to seek another location for the 2023 conference, following our tenets outlined for conference site selection. Susan Pile, University of Michigan, has been appointed as the conference chair, and we will seek applicants for the Conference Program Team in the coming weeks.
Socially Responsible Investing
This month, the Board of Trustees voted to amend ACUI’s financial investment policies as a step toward our strategic priority to “Consider social responsibility, good stewardship, and financial well-being when making decisions, including the financial investments of the Association.”
In partnership with our investment company, Raffa Wealth Management, ACUI’s investment portfolio will emphasize companies that operate with high environmental, social, and governance standards and deemphasize those companies that do not. Overall the board wanted to:
- Avoid direct investment in firms that conflict with ACUI’s values
- Use mutual funds to deliver a socially responsible investing emphasis
- Invest in companies that score well on environmental, social, and governance metrics, among socially responsible investment fund types
Raffa will proceed with selling our existing investments that do not align with that strategy and will be investing in mutual funds that do.
One misconception about socially responsible investing is that ACUI will sacrifice performance with this approach. Studies from Morgan Stanley, RBC Global Assessment Management, and others continue to debunk this myth.
“Beyond being the moral thing to do, this approach makes good business sense,” said Dr. John Taylor, ACUI’s chief executive officer. “We’re achieving our financial goals without compromising on who we are as an organization.”
During the pandemic and as we now emerge and chart the next phase of work, many volunteers have undergone multiple shifts in their professional roles on campus. Volunteer engagement has been and continues to be a strategic focus of the Association and a priority of the ACUI Leadership Team.
In addition to the staff and Board of Trustees, the ACUI Leadership Team includes those directing the Association’s regions, educational strategy, and committees. At the team’s semi-annual meeting this month, workshops and dialogue emphasized managing with empathy and accountability during this critical time for higher education. Several other anticipated structural changes are meant to make it easier to volunteer with the Association. Specifically:
- Institutional member primary contacts are currently voting to amend the ACUI constitution and implement ranked choice voting for Board of Trustees candidates, considered to be a fairer process that allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference.
- Now due in November, applications for Regional Leadership Teams will coincide with Regional Conferences, building on the energy and knowledge-transfer opportunities at those events.
- A working group was established to make recommendations to the board to improve volunteer recruitment and marketing tactics, with an emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion.
These are some of the various initiatives aside from those coordinated within groups such as the Volunteer Development Team.