Investment decisions up to Board of Trustees, Gallagher tells Senate


Chancellor Patrick Gallagher reminded Senate Council members at the October meeting that any decisions on how to invest the University’s more than $4 billion endowment is ultimately up to the full Board of Trustees

In the aftermath of student protests, Student Government Board President Zechariah Brown sought more understanding about Pitt’s ongoing process with socially responsible investing during the meeting. Students also want to know what they can do to contribute to the process, he said.

Gallagher reiterated many of his points that he highlighted in his Aug. 27 letter to the Pitt community following the release of the Socially Responsible Investing Committee report. 

He formed the committee in January 2018. Since then, it’s gathered community input, data on SRI funds and more for the report. 

Among its many findings, the committee found that it was in the University’s best interest to keep several non-financial issues in mind when selecting investments. 

However, Gallagher said, the board has reserved the power to make substantial changes to the University’s investments to itself.  This is because the board has an important “balancing act” to maintain the endowment. Investments should be “as aligned with our core values as possible,” Gallagher said, while also maintaining a steady income.

While University administrators can’t make the changes directly, they can, however, work to present a strong case to the board. This is why Gallagher tasked the chief financial officer’s office to explore strategies that would strengthen the case.

In the past, the University has divested from organizations in apartheid South Africa and involved in exploitative work practices, Gallagher said, so it’s possible for future investment decisions to be made based on social issues.

Resolutions, petitions or signatures from student groups won’t necessarily strengthen the case for the board, as critical analysis is what’s needed, Gallagher said.

“I don't think the board through any mechanism would be looking at resolutions, signatures,” Gallagher said. “They're important signals that this is something that's caught the University's broad interest, but given their fiduciary responsibility, they're looking for a careful analysis.”

Faculty Senate President Chris Bonneau said if the current process were to stop, it would ultimately delay progress in socially responsible investing.

“So my inclination as somebody who you know, wants to get things done, and get them done in a way that works for everybody, is to see what the recommendations are from the CFO and then see if we agree with those or not agree with those and then use that to frame the discussion later on,” Bonneau said. “I think there's a lot of good work in the research that's going on. That should be wrapped up within the next few months.” 

Gallagher said he is expecting to hear recommendations from the CFO before the February 2020 Board of Trustees meeting.

The meeting also featured CPR and bleeding emergency response demonstrations from Pitt EMS students in honor of Restart a Heart Day.

Donovan Harrell is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at or 412-383-9905.