The Rev. Jesse Jackson will call on Yale to increase its percentage of minority asset managers, Jackson said in a telephone interview Friday. He said the University profited from discrimination and has a history of labor problems, making it a suitable focus of his campaign.
In a Jan. 14 speech at the 7th Annual Rainbow/Push Coalition Wall Street Project Conference that specifically mentioned the University, Jackson — who serves as president and founder of the social, racial and economic justice group the Rainbow/Push Coalition — called for all institutions with significant financial assets to place 5 percent of those resources in the hands of minority asset managers. But Yale spokeswoman Helaine Klasky said University officials will not allow Jackson to make such decisions on behalf of Yale.
Jackson said Friday that he believes minority firms have far greater ability to manage resources than the amount to which they have access.
“[The low percentage of minority asset managers] is not a matter of capacity,” Jackson said. “It’s a matter of opportunity.”
Jackson said he wants to meet with churches, companies, universities and other institutions to discuss his plan. He said he is already meeting with General Motors and Citigroup and plans to speak with Yale officials “soon.”
But that meeting may not occur. Klasky said in an e-mail that the work of University Chief Investment Officer David Swensen and his team have created “a record of extraordinary success” that has received praise from many quarters and allowed such “exemplary programs” as the University’s guarantee to meet all College students’ full demonstrated financial need.
“It would not be in the interest of the University and those who benefit from its endowment to allow the Reverend Jackson to dictate any aspect [of] its management,” Klasky said. “Yale will continue to have its able investment team use its best judgment in managing Yale’s endowment, including in the hiring of outside managers.”
Swensen could not be reached for comment Friday.
Jackson said Yale “has quite a history being a beneficiary of America’s historic practices of discrimination.” He said the University educated many members of the Southern aristocracy and many of the namesakes of Yale’s 12 residential colleges were involved in the slave trade.
A 2001 report by three Yale doctoral candidates with ties to Yale’s unions alleged that nine of the 12 colleges are named for slave owners.
Some scholars have criticized the report for not placing events in their proper historical context.
Jackson said he thought his campaign could have a significant impact. He said the goal of 5 percent minority-managed assets is “significantly beyond” the present level. Jackson said he convened a body of managers to discuss the issue and they believed the program could initiate a “breakthrough.”
“[The minority managers] felt that once they get in the door, they can grow,” Jackson said.
Jackson said putting more assets under the control of minority managers could have a national effect with respect to increased employment and family stability.
Currently, Jackson said, financial managers often choose to invest their clients’ money in the suburbs instead of the cities. He said Yale is “a huge pocket of wealth” surrounded by poverty in New Haven.
There have also been “challenges” relative to workers and graduate students at the University, Jackson said. He spoke in New Haven and was arrested Sept. 1 for blocking an intersection during a three-week strike by Yale’s clerical, technical, service and maintenance workers.
Jackson said labor and civil rights groups must work together to democratize access to capital and give labor groups a greater voice.
Black Students at Yale President Lauren Booker ’06 said she agreed with the majority of Jackson’s plan and believed increasing minority representation should be “something [Yale administrators] should be actively working on, finding a way to at least make an effort toward working with this program.”
She said taking this step could also help the University improve its relationship with the city of New Haven.
Booker said she was not speaking for BSAY as a whole.