D. Hall votes to join Yale fund

Despite the objections of some students, Dwight Hall plans to put at least some of its $3.3 million endowment under Yale’s management, those present at a Dwight Hall Board of Trustees meeting Thursday said.

The Trustees for Dwight Hall, the umbrella organization for most of Yale’s community service and social justice groups, are in the process of negotiating with the University about moving the endowment from a private management firm to the Yale Investments Office, said Carl Eifler ’70, chair of the Trustees. If the deal receives approval from the Yale Corporation, it will represent a setback to student activists who have lobbied against the move, citing what they consider to be a lackluster record of ethical investing by the University.

At the same meeting, the Trustees agreed to a series of discussions about their investing philosophy, and proposed the creation of a separate, socially responsible investing endowment.

The Yale Corporation is expected to take up the issue within the next two days, Eifler said, and the decision is more than a formality. University President Richard Levin said Wednesday that Yale only allows external organizations to invest with the endowment in a handful of cases in which their mission aligns closely with that of the University.

The Dwight Hall Board of Directors, another governing body for Dwight Hall that played only an advisory role in the endowment decision, had recommended two years ago that the Trustees consider moving the endowment to Yale’s management because of the Yale Investments Office’s success, Eifler said. The office earned a 28 percent return on its investments during the last fiscal year, bringing the University endowment to $22.5 billion, the University announced just this Wednesday.

But Eifler said strong performance was not the only reason the Trustees considered investing with Yale. The University does practice socially responsible investing, he said. Socially responsible investing refers to investing strategies that take into account personal or societal beliefs.

But a number of students, including Frances Kelley ’08, the Social Justice Network liaison to the Dwight Hall Executive Committee, said they disagreed.

In a memorandum to the Trustees that was sent to the SJN discussion panlist Monday, Kelley and another student, Hugh Baran ’09, had presented their research into Yale’s endowment practices.

“We as students are disappointed that they want to do this option because we believe firmly that Yale does not practice any kind of ethical investing,” Kelley said last night of the Trustees’ decision to pursue investing with the University.

In their memo, Kelley and Baran cite Yale’s lack of transparency and its investment in Farallon, a hedge fund that once invested in a private prisons company, as reasons Dwight Hall should not invest through Yale.

Although the Trustees did not follow the students’ suggestions, the day was not a complete loss for the student activists. The Trustees proposed creating a second endowment that could be invested in a socially responsible manner, Eifler said. The new endowment could be created with money taken from the existing fund as well as new fundraising, though the details have yet to be ironed out, he said.

The Trustees also agreed to give students the opportunity to research and discuss Yale’s socially responsible investing practices and then to bring up any concerns they have at future meetings.

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