King's student council will be going to final offer arbitration on Sunday to decide the wording of the question on ethical investing — and previously BDS question — for their upcoming referendum.
The King's University College Students' Council (KUCSC) moved to final offer arbitration after their ad hoc committee couldn't come to an agreeable question.
Final offer arbitration means the council will vote on a question proposed by each side. The two parties are divided over how closely the question should relate to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
At the last KUCSC meeting, debate on the referendum focused on determining a question that would ask students if they support calling upon King's administration to divest from companies for ethical reasons. The questions from the two sides are shown below:
A Gazette inquiry revealed that regardless of the question the KUCSC chooses Sunday, it may not see any practical change. As it stands, all of King's University College's operating investments — roughly $11.5 million — are in a high-interest savings account at the Bank of Montreal.
"King’s University College doesn’t have much to divest from," said Jeff Major, vice-principal support services and finance. "The information that is outlined in our financial statements is accurate. Currently, King's only has high interest savings accounts as its investments."
Major said King's has been with BMO since the College's inception in the mid-'50s. He added that even if King's investments weren't with BMO, the College's governance structure dictates that King's has to deal with another Canadian bank; it wouldn't be able to go with a private investment company, for example.
"There’s nothing to divest from on that side," he said.
The college's two other portfolios, a pension fund for employees and the King's Foundation, have their own investment structure that the College cannot directly influence. Legally, the pension funds have to be separate from the College's investments and are currently administered by a committee. The King's Foundation, with $9.3 million in investments as of April 2016, has its own board of directors and is a separate legal entity.
Further, King's currently has an ethical investment policy.
"We have a statement of investment policies and procedures, so each one of those investments groups would have a statement that governs their investments," Major said. "I believe the one for the College says we will not knowingly invest in companies that are contrary to King’s mission."
King's mission states the College is committed to "the ongoing creation of a vital academic community animated by a Christian love of learning and the pursuit of truth. The College strives to foster an environment based on open enquiry, Christian values and service to the larger community."
Nate Little, KUCSC president, said an important thing to remember about final offer arbitration is that it's not trying to find the best question, but to find the question that provides the most compromise.
"A lot of this campaign is symbolic," Little said. "The conflict is not about the divestment, but about the conversation. It’s about whether or not we’re going to legitimize a side in this."
Little said that since the referendum was first proposed last March, King's administration has left it up to students to decide the way forward.
"We all want to learn more about this issue at King's, and that’s what were here for — to have hard conversations and expand our understanding of the world," Little said. "I don’t think it's bad to let students have a voice to decide if they’re going to choose a side or not. The community’s been very mature and thoughtful in this."