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#KillerBusiness: Divestment Study Guide

Earlier this year, Students Demand Action called out the gun industry and demanded they take action to save lives. Our demands include securing supply chains⁠, refusing to work with bad actors⁠, and stopping marketing to kids and teens⁠. Now, to make sure they hear us, we are calling on our colleges and universities to divest from the gun industry because our schools should not be supporting or funding through investments and endowments, their killer business… And students at more than 35 schools have already signed up to begin their campaigns!

Guns are the number one killer of children, teens, and college-aged youth in America. And over 43,000 people die by guns in an average year.

Our nation’s gun violence crisis costs an estimated $557 billion annually—while the gun industry rakes in an estimated $9 billion each year. Many large employee pension funds have begun to divest from the gun industry in an effort to push gun companies to change. Colleges and universities should remove their investments, as the gun industry has failed to mitigate the harm of their business.

Divestment sends a message that we don’t accept the gun industry’s dangerous practices. Colleges and universities should refuse to fund the gun industry unless and until gun companies comply with our list of demands that would save lives. When done right, divesting from the gun industry should have no financial impact on a schools’ investment returns. Schools can still make money without investing in industries that kill kids.

But we know that talking about divestment can be challenging—so we’re here to help you feel confident when you are engaging in these conversations on your campus. You can always refer back here to your Divestment Study Guide if you forget a word or need a refresher.

Below are some words that you might hear as your divestment campaign develops. We have broken them into two groups or courses, Divestment 101 & 201:

Divestment 101

  • Divestment

    Divestment is the opposite of investment. Rather than putting money into assets, when divesting, money is removed from assets as a result of a financial, political or ethical objective.

  • Investment

    A financial investment is the act of putting money into assets, such as stocks and bonds, with the intention of generating growth in the money over time.

  • Endowments

    Endowments act as savings accounts for both private and public universities. When alumni and organizations donate to a university or college, those gifts are often contributed to an endowment. Universities invest the endowment to make sure that there is money in the fund for future generations of students. Universities are, in most cases, not required to disclose how their endowments are invested to the public.

  • Investment Board

    An investment board is the group of people responsible for managing a university’s assets. Investment boards vary in size and have different processes for membership appointment. In addition to finance professionals, Investment Boards often engage with a consulting firm that aids them in managing the relationships with various fund managers.

  • Board of Trustees

    A board of trustees is an appointed or elected group of individuals that has overall responsibility for the management of an organization, like a university. The board of trustees generally has the final say in all decisions regarding the endowment.

  • Head/Chief Financial Officer

    The chief financial officer is responsible for a college’s financial operations. They control and build the financial department, execute financial planning, manage financial risks, and oversee record keeping and financial reporting.

Divestment 201

  • Socially Responsible Investment Policy

    Socially Responsible Investing is an investment strategy that aims to help foster positive social and environmental outcomes while also generating positive returns. A school’s Socially Responsible Investing Policy (SRI Policy) aligns the university’s investment strategy with its commitment to social and environmental justice.

  • Ethical / Socially Responsible Investment Advisory Committee

    The Socially Responsible Advisory Committee advises the Investment Committee on matters of social responsibility with regards to endowment fund investments.

  • Publicly Traded Company

    A publicly traded company is a corporation whose shares can be bought and sold on a public stock exchange and is therefore subject to certain federal regulations. The company is owned by many shareholders.

  • Privately Held Company

    A privately or closely held company is owned in its entirety by its founders, investors, members, or private shareholders. Its shares are not traded on a public stock exchange.

  • Board of Regents

    A Board of Regents is an independent governing body that oversees a state’s public colleges and universities. The board’s power to govern the university includes financial responsibility for the assets and programs of the university, establishment of goals and policies to guide the university, and oversight of the functioning of the university.

  • Chief Investment Officer

    The chief investment officer of a university is responsible for overseeing the endowment, including hiring people and firms to manage the funds in the endowment. The chief investment officer plays a key role in developing policies around investment, as well as investment strategies.

There you go! You made it to the end of the list. Now you can feel confident when any of these words or phrases come up in your conversation!

Take Our Divestment Exam

Want to test your knowledge and take the next step in getting involved in divestment? Text EXAM to 644-33!

Start a Divestment Campaign

Want to run a divestment campaign on your campus? We’ll help you get started.

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