Harvard college students criticize $53B endowment as Ivy threatens cost-cutting

Harvard College stands out as the gold normal of Ivy League establishments , however its personal college students have accused it of utilizing unethical and predatory practices to bolster its large $53.2 billion endowment whereas threatening to slash jobs and deny employees a residing wage.

Harvard Administration Firm , which oversees the endowment, returned 33.6% on its investments for the fiscal 12 months ending in June 2021. That is an $11.3 billion improve from the earlier 12 months, which catapulted the endowment, already the most important on the planet, to its largest sum in historical past.

Harvard’s subsequent victory lap over the cash made throughout a pandemic and on the backs of constantly underpaid staff is not sitting nicely with college students like Sophie Goldman.

“This ostentatious reward for the endowment’s development (which was already bigger than half the world’s economies) will not be solely in poor style, but additionally morally unsuitable,” she wrote within the Harvard Crimson. “Regardless of this monumental monetary acquire of over $11 billion previously 12 months, the College continues to decrease its price range allotted for important employees, citing ‘continued monetary stress’ as a result of pandemic.”

Earlier than the autumn 2021 semester started, Harvard proposed new eating schedules that threatened to chop the variety of full-time eating staff by 20% and power an 8% discount in complete hours out there.


Fearing the worst, UNITE HERE Native 26, the union representing eating staff, solicited help from college students by way of flyers plastered throughout campus.

The flyers accuse Harvard of “utilizing austerity politics to marginalize important employees” after accumulating a hefty sum in tuition throughout the pandemic and rising its endowment.

“On the similar time, Harvard is pushing meals service employees to the sidelines by slashing full-time jobs and chopping hours – despite the fact that extra college students are on campus than ever,” the flyer claimed.

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Whereas the varsity tried to avoid wasting face, it was thrust again into the highlight final week when members of the Harvard Graduate College students Union-United Car Staff went on strike after negotiations stalled with the varsity over a modest pay improve (lower than half the speed of inflation), amendments to the Title IX course of, and the reorganization of a union store clause that may require undergrads to pay dues as a situation of employment.

The strike, which began on Wednesday and ended Friday, coincided with the annual freshman dad and mom’ weekend actions.

Harvard University students
Cambridge, USA – August 27, 2012: Harvard College college students welcoming freshmen in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA on August 27, 2012. Greater than 1700 freshmen moved in to Harvard dormitories that day. Lessons will begin on September 4, 2012 after a week-long orientation.


“I do not see logic anymore between [Harvard] not solely having all this cash and sources however being very proud and flaunting it and on the similar time saying it would not be financially prudent to pay anybody a residing wage,” union President Brandon Mancilla stated .

Harvard President Lawrence S. Bacow has argued previously that the college has “a authorized and ethical duty to keep up the buying energy of the endowment in order that it sustains future generations,” however critics declare 33.6% beneficial properties is rather more than the “upkeep” Bacow has cited as a cause to chop prices.


Harvard’s endowment dates again to 1638, when John Harvard gifted 400 books and half his property, making him the college’s namesake. Others say the endowment’s true roots may be traced to 1649, when 4 alumni donated actual property to the college which is now the placement of the Widener Library.

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From the 1640s to the mid-Twentieth century, the endowment was managed conservatively, and funds have been cut up between bonds, money, and blue-chip frequent shares.

When the Harvard Administration Firm was based in 1974, the endowment was valued at $1.1 billion. Managers started shifting property from their home portfolio to a world one, established a commerce desk to spend money on bonds, and made the transfer from public securities to non-public ones.

The cash poured in for years, however when the coronavirus pandemic hit, Harvard “invoked austerity measures” that it claimed have been fiscally accountable.

And whereas massive chunks of the endowment stay inaccessible, others say the college, which completed the fiscal 12 months with a price range surplus of greater than $238 million, has greater than sufficient money available to help employees whose reported wages and advantages decreased by $101 million.

So as to add gas to the hearth, in fiscal 12 months 2020, the highest six officers at HMC made greater than $31 million mixed.

“Flaunting these exorbitant beneficial properties whereas concurrently utilizing austerity politics to restrict employee compensation is not spectacular, it is embarrassing,” Goldman stated.

Goldman additionally takes challenge with the “unethical sources” of Harvard’s monetary beneficial properties.

The endowment contains exchange-traded funds that previously have profited off non-public prisons, fossil fuels, and as lately as 2018, a $2 billion funding in a hedge fund that held bonds earning money from Puerto Rican debt . In Brazil’s Cerrado area, Harvard owns greater than $450 million of farmland discovered by the Brazilian authorities and believed to be illegally taken from indigenous communities, Goldman stated.


“Harvard’s use of those illegitimately sequestered lands additional contributes to the disenfranchisement of those peoples, because the HMC seems to harass native communities, contribute to deforestation, and closely use pesticides and different chemical compounds which pollute native ingesting water and have probably result in elevated numbers of most cancers sufferers,” she added.

The Washington Examiner has reached out a number of occasions to Harvard College and Harvard Administration Firm for remark.

Neither has responded.

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