Penn clarifies investment ethic
March 30, 2011, 4:33 am·
Although the University issued a public statement last Friday that it has no plans to make future investments in HEI Hotels and Resorts — which has been accused of unjust labor practices — Penn has not invested in the company since 2004.
Despite being presented with two opportunities for further investment in HEI after 2004, Penn did not participate in the funds and is not considering future investments, according to the statement.
Last month, the Student Labor Action Project issued a letter signed by students, faculty and 29 campus groups, asking Penn to publicly declare that it will no longer invest in HEI.
According to Executive Vice President Craig Carnaroli, however, Penn’s statement came more from a desire to clarify the Univesity’s position on the issue rather than as a response to SLAP’s request.
While the University respects SLAP’s “efforts to engage the Penn community more broadly” in the issue of its investment in HEI, Penn’s policy did not significantly alter in response to their demand, Carnaroli wrote in an email.
SLAP’s push for the University to issue a public statement of its policy was not “an unreasonable or difficult request to accommodate,” Carnaroli added.
SLAP has been lobbying the University to distance itself from the hotel chain since 2008, when Penn’s investment in the company was made public during an HEI company presentation, according to the statement.
SLAP initially asked Penn to divest, or withdraw its funds, from HEI. Upon learning that divestment “would hurt Penn and not the company,” SLAP altered its request, College junior and SLAP Coordinator Rosie Brown said.
If Penn were to pull its funds from HEI, she explained, the University would lose a portion of the money it had originally invested in the process. By not reinvesting, Penn is making it clear that it “won’t add any more money” to the hotel chain.
It’s a stronger “statement about what they think of HEI,” Brown added.
However, Penn’s declaration of non-reinvestment — similar to that of Brown University’s last month — does not impact the standing of the company, said Nigel Hurst, the senior vice president for human resources at HEI.
While “investors make the decision to invest or not to invest,” Hurst was confident that HEI “will continue to be a in a position to ensure our investors that we have among the highest employee satisfaction.”
The University still has a connection with the company through the Wharton West program, which has a contract with the HEI-owned Le Meridien San Francisco. SLAP “would like to see Penn cut that contract with HEI and honor the boycott” that is currently taking place at Le Meridien in response to inhumane working conditions, College senior and SLAP coordinator Rose Espinola said.
SLAP hopes that Penn will acknowledge the difficult conditions for workers at HEI hotels, but Carnaroli wrote that student activists must recognize the University may not directly intervene in a “labor-management conflict.”