Concerns over CUSU campaign logo

Deputy News Editor 23 November 2008

University officials have expressed ‘concern’ over a CUSU Ethical Investment

Campaign, which has been interpreted as implying that the University might be associated with criminal activities. The University

has rejected any such suggestion.

Some 6000 postcard-sized flyers

have been found in student pigeonholes across colleges, highlighting

the fact that Cambridge University does not currently have an ethical investment policy and asks that the University should develop an approach ‘that reflects its commitment to education and research, human rights sustainability’

(full text, box right).

Students are asked to fill in their name, college and email address,

as well as a message, before posting it to the Vice Chancellor, whose address is printed on the back of the card.

At first glance the postcards appear light-hearted, as they also feature a circle where students are encouraged to tape a penny.

The last bit of text reads ‘I have sent you a penny with this card. Please make sure this is invested responsibly!’ and the flyer has a cut-off tab with the words ‘I pennied

the Vice Chancellor!’

However, students to whom TCS spoke have raised concerns over the logo displayed on the back of the card, which shows the University

crest with a skull and crossbones

outline superimposed and the words ‘cut crime out of our investments’.

Some suggested that the design could be seen as ambiguous and carries the implication that Cambridge’s

investments are illegal.

Cambridge University has never officially disclosed details about its investments.

Acknowledging that the logo implies criminal associations, a spokesman for the University said:

“The University is very conscious

of its responsibilities over ethical investment policy and does not recognise allegations of criminality

in this context.”

Nevertheless, CUSU Ethical Investment

Officer Mischa Foxell, who was re-elected last night under the new title of ‘Socially Responsible Investment Officer’, insisted that she had received a ‘mandate to engage in campaigning’

from Council and that the Ethical

Affairs team was fully behind her design.

She told The Cambridge Student (TCS):

“The cards are part of a campaign

that was launched this term by the CUSU Ethical Affairs team to get the University to implement a Socially Responsible Investment policy which reflects its commitments

to education, human rights and sustainability.

“Currently the central University

fund has no policy, unlike several

other UK Universities including Oxford, St. Andrews, Manchester, Edinburgh, and also several of the colleges.

“CUSU Council passed a motion calling for a policy on the 22nd October and a petition that was launched a week and a half ago supporting the policy has already got more than 500 signatures.”

Foxell said that 8000 cards had been printed, with more planned soon, and that the campaign is ‘trying to make Cambridge better than it is’.

She defended the choice of logo as ‘an attempt to catch people’s attention’

and said that ‘if it attracts people’s attention it’s worthwhile using it’.

The image in question also features

on the campaign’s Facebook group, ‘Ethical Investment for Cambridge University’, which has 346 members.

The description of the group says ‘it would not be tolerated if Cambridge University publicly endorsed

companies which violate international human rights law or damage the University’s educational

mission. It should not be tolerated that the University can financially support these companies

through its investments’.

Foxell said that the logo ‘linked the University with bad stuff’ and that ‘giving your money in investments

is a direct way to be involved in some pretty dodgy companies’.

A University spokesman said that University Communications staff were meeting with the Vice Chancellor’s office to discuss a response to the campaign, and said that there had been ‘concern’ about some of the messages accompanying

the cards.

Carly Hilts

Deputy News Editor