UTIMCO investments no longer serve UT Austin students

Heather Worth

The University of Texas/Texas A&M Investment Company (UTIMCO), is a part of the greater University of Texas System, one of the largest systems of higher education in the nation with just under a quarter of a million students. UTIMCO was founded to invest university operating funds and endowments into various entities for the betterment of the UT System. However, UTIMCO is no longer investing in our futures — rather the opposite.

On the surface, UTIMCO contributes to the interests of students in the UT System by optimizing the Universities’ resources. UTIMCO returned +4.5% in just one year.  UTIMCO’s General  Endowment  Fund  and  the  Permanent University Fund returned 4.5% in one year. By the end of 2019, UTIMCO was sitting with $47.7 billion in its pockets, an accomplishment that would, in theory, trigger praise from the UT community. 

However, UT students have not greeted that news — nor the UTIMCO board — with any praise. Instead, students have discovered that UTIMCO employs unethical methods, which hurtles its universities toward immoral ends at an exponential pace.

While the funds totaling $47.7 billion operate under the guise of advancing the quality of student education, they are deteriorating the quality of student life. For each dollar that UTIMCO invests, one dollar is given to a number of entities on what A&M’s Battalion is calling “The Blacklist.” Just six years ago, UTIMCO was investing around $1.6 million in companies with allegations of being directly involved in the genocide in Darfur, Sudan. That same year, UTIMCO invested $34.6 million in entities accused by the Securities Exchange Commission of “bribery on an international scale.” 

And the list goes on, with millions of dollars funding companies accused of unethical child labor, exposing workers to illnesses, funding warlords, contracting police to kill people, breaking foreign nations’ laws and maintaining such extremely poor working conditions that employees are led to suicide. For years, students have been calling for UTIMCO to divest from unethical companies in order to protect the long list of communities being affected by those companies. That list of communities grows every year.

Every year, UTIMCO funnels millions of dollars into oil and gas companies — companies that were made aware of the destructive effects of climate change in 1977, but failed to properly alert the public. Since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report began reporting on the effects of climate change, support has grown for a movement towards clean energy in the United States. However, in 2014 UTIMCO invested more than $50 million in companies associated with the extraction and production of fossil fuel energy — an investment that has negatively impacted every single student in the UT System. The production of fossil fuel energy exacerbates the destructive effects from climate change. When UTIMCO invests in nonrenewable energy, they divest from the futures of their very own students.

Students have the right to have a voice in this matter. Every year, portions of student tuition are moved to an assortment of funds, including UTIMCO investment funds. Students have been calling for the ethical spending of their own money for years, but UTIMCO has failed to meet the demands of these students. Despite the steps made by multiple university systems towards divestment, UTIMCO remains silent on the matter.

There are nine people responsible for UTIMCO’s unethical investment: Jeffery D. Hildebrand, Ray Rothrock, R. Steven Hicks, Janiece Longoria, Robert Guantt, Janet Handley, Ray Nixon, Clifton L. Thomas Jr. and James Conrad Weaver.

Until UTIMCO meets these demands, $47.7 billion will be managed by nine people who fail to represent the values of the UT System, completely unchecked. Millions and millions of dollars will continue to fund unethical practices around the world if UTIMCO continues to tolerate unethical practices.

Worth is the Co-Political Campaign Director for Students Fighting Climate Change and international business junior.