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Campus Notes

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Some of the most exciting thinking and doing in Canada is taking place at the country's colleges and universities, where young people of different backgrounds, interests and politics come together to debate and learn about our world. Campus Notes examines issues confronting higher education through our students, teachers, workers and graduates.

Students call on Maclean's to rank universities by 'ethical investment'

| December 19, 2012
Students call on Maclean's to rank universities by 'ethical investment'

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Five thousand people have signed a petition launched by three recent university graduates asking Maclean's magazine to include an ethical investment category in their popular annual Canadian Universities Report.

Together, Canadian Universities invest billions every year in companies many consider to be unethical. In their petition Elysia Petrone, Kyuwon Kim, and Yasmin Parodi point out that investments in the tobacco companies, weapons companies, fossil fuel companies, in companies known to use sweatshops, or companies with ties to corrupt or violent governments are common to most Canadian universities.

"If Maclean's responds to our petition and creates an ethical investment ranking it will force universities to think seriously about where they're investing their billions," said Kyuwon Kim, a graduate of UBC. "Universities really care about how Maclean's ranks them. With this ranking they'll be able to see the progress others are making and will hopefully get competitive."

"We're excited so many people are signing our petition on Change.org," said Yasmin Parodi, a graduate of Ontario College of Art & Design. "We think our approach really puts a lot of power in the hands of students who might never have thought about what their university is investing in. I know all three of us would have loved to have this information when we were applying to university."

"I went to University for Environmental Studies, so I was shocked when I realized how much money Canadian universities were investing in some of the worst fossil fuel companies on the planet, said Elysia Petrone, a graduate of Lakehead University. "Then we did a little more research for our petition and realized that universities are invested in just about every other objectionable industry. It's hypocritical, especially when students are attending university to learn how to solve global problems."

New signatures and comments on Yasmin, Elysia and Kyuwon's petition are sent via email to Josh Dehaas, the editor of Maclean's On Campus. Maclean's magazine has published their annual Universities Report for 22 years.

The three recent grads were inspired to start their Maclean's petition on Change.org after seeing the success of three highschool students who launched a change.org petition for one of the U.S. Presidential debates to be moderated by a woman. That petition was victorious and resulted in the second presidential debate being moderated by CNN's Candy Crowley.

"It is so interesting to see the different ways people are using Change.org," said Lauryn Drainie, a Canadian campaigner with Change.org. "Elysia, Yasmin and Kyuwon have come up with an approach using the rankings Maclean's is already doing, and put forward an idea that could strongly impact how universities invest large amounts of money."

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Comments

Ethical investment is as much a myth as ethical capitalism.

Capitalism doesn't do ethics; it only does profit. Ethics get in the way of profit; that's why the biggest polluters, exploiters, war profiteers, and supporters of right-wing politicians are the most profitable.

Ethical investment is for those who want to make a profit from someone else's labour, but not too much of a profit.

If universities divest their stocks of oil companies, tobacco companies, weapons manufacturers, etc. those stocks won't disappear. They will simply fall into the hands of other private investors who will reap the super-profits instead. And the oil, tobacco, and military industries will carry on as if nothing has happened. Because nothing has.

Meanwhile the universities will continue to depend on more direct forms of corporate funding for programs and research, and to provide R&D and academic cover for the activities of the military-industrial-pharmaceutical-petrochemical complex that pays the bills. In fact, even more so once they have divested themselves of the healthy dividends from those megacorp stock portfolios.

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