Dressed nattily in evening gowns and suits and holding posters saying “Boola Moola,” about 40 students gathered in front of Woodbridge Hall for an hour Friday morning to lead a rally against Farallon Capital Management, LLC, a hedge fund that invests part of Yale’s and several other universities’ endowments.
The group met to protest Farallon’s investment strategies, which they allege are unethical in the overseas arena. The group, which calls itself Yale Stakeholders for the Aggressive Management of the Endowment, or YaleSHAME, accused the University of hypocrisy for holding allegedly unethical investments abroad that YaleSHAME said Yale would not invest in if the companies were closer to home. The rally was part of a National Day of Action Against Farallon. Over 70 schools, including Harvard and Princeton, participated.
After issuing a tongue-in-cheek ultimatum via megaphone that the University “start investing in New Haven the way you do around the world” and receiving no response from Yale President Richard Levin’s Woodbridge Hall office, the students moved to Cross Campus to pretend to mark trees for logging, lay plans for a coal power generator and extract water from under the Women’s Table.
Steven Bruce, a spokesman for Farallon, told the Yale Daily News in response to a previous rally that the company prides itself on integrity in its investments.
“We have always been responsible investors and take that obligation seriously,” Bruce said.
YaleSHAME “Chief Executive Officer” Naasiha Siddiqui ’05 opened the ceremonies by reading a prepared statement about the group on Beinecke Plaza. The statement explained the members were “high-network student activists who put investment of profits above all else.” Siddiqui engaged the audience by leading interactive cheers, such as “Let’s hear it for lead pollution!” Siddiqui characterized Farallon’s money management tactics as “General Sherman-style investment strategies.”
Andrea Johnson MESc ’05 delivered a speech to accompany the “surveying” of trees on Cross Campus in which she discussed the merits of profit over aesthetics. Joking that students feel there is “too much oxygen” and calling trees a nuisance, she urged the crowd to “end photosynthesis now.”
Phoebe Rounds ’07, who delivered a speech about the virtues of building a coal plant on Cross Campus, said she thought the protest was “definitely a success” and had proceeded according to expectations. But despite the students’ success, she said, real work to improve Yale’s investments would have to occur away from Yale’s campus.
“We need Farallon to be more transparent in its action, and we hope broad-based international [action against Farallon] will be successful,” Rounds said.
The goal of the rally was to create a dialogue between Farallon and other universities, Siddiqui said.
“We’re hoping that by putting mounting national pressure on Farallon and the Yale administration, they’ll recognize we’re a national force and agree to sit down and talk to us,” she said.
Stanford University sent a petition to Farallon in which the protests were mentioned, Siddiqui said. The protests received national media attention, she said, and Farallon officials even visited the protesters’ Web site. Other hedge funds are beginning to take notice, she said.
“We’ve been featured in several trade magazines,” Siddiqui said. “We’ve been told there’s a ‘buzz’ in the hedge fund world.”
Siddiqui said the “sarcastic” technique of protest espoused by the group — exemplified by its ironic chants and speeches and participants’ elegant clothing — was successful at the group’s last large speak-out.
The group believes this method to be a less invasive way to spread its message, Siddiqui said.
“It gets across our message without our having to make moral pleas to people,” she said. “On the other hand, you realize how bad this is and that it shouldn’t be going on around the world.”
According to the national protest Web site, Farallon is the fourth largest hedge fund in the world and manages over eight billion dollars of assets.