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Student activists demand Washington University cut ties with Andrew Taylor

Student activists demand Washington University cut ties with Andrew Taylor

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A group of student activists have released a list of demands calling for the removal of Enterprise Holdings' Executive Chairman Andrew Taylor from Washington University's board of trustees, and further calling on the school to cut all ties with prisons.

St. Louis Students in Solidarity, a collection of activists from area universities, posted an online petition this week as part of the Decarcerate St. Louis effort dedicated to dismantling mass incarceration in the city.

The students demanded that Taylor invest 1 percent of Enterprise Holdings profits towards efforts to lower incarceration rates in St. Louis neighborhoods with the highest rates of incarceration.

The group also called on Craig Schnuck, Washington University's board chairman, to remove Taylor from the board.

A third demand called on Washington University Chancellor Mark Wrighton to publicly disclose the university's investments and financial connections to prisons.

“Andrew Taylor connects the university with profits from correctional facilities,” the group said in a news release. “Taylor holds the majority stake in Centric Group, which oversees a network of prison service companies called Keefe Group.”

The group goes on to say that Keefe makes money through price markups on commissary goods, including food and toiletries, in addition to fees for money transfers and phone and internet service.

Wrighton responded to the demands in a statement praising the student group for exercising the free expression of ideas, which he said “goes right to our core mission as a university.”

But Wrighton went on to say that the university does not disclose the specifics of its investment portfolio. Additionally, the university does not make direct investments, but rather uses external investment managers who “carefully consider each investment based on a number of factors including the nature of the business and the opportunity for return.”

Wrighton further said he's proud of Taylor's membership on the board, considering his record of philanthropy in the area.

“I am grateful for the extraordinary difference he has made for the university and entire St. Louis region,” Wrighton said.

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Koran Addo is a reporter at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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