Dwight Hall delays move of funds to Univ. investors

The Dwight Hall Board of Trustees has decided to postpone the organization’s plans to move at least some of its endowment to the Yale Investments Office, despite the Yale Corporation’s approval of the decision, board chair Carl Eifler ’70 said.

The Corporation, the University’s governing body, accepted the trustees’ proposal to give at least some of its $3.3 million endowment to the Office — the group that has increased Yale’s endowment by more than $13 billion over a decade — late last week.

Eifler said the trustees decided to delay the deal until there is agreement within the Dwight Hall community concerning the proposed move. Some students who are involved with the organization, which oversees most of Yale’s student activism groups, said their primary complaint about the proposed deal was the ambiguity of the Office’s socially responsible investing policy, including its affiliation with a hedge fund that had invested in a private prisons company, as well as the Office’s lack of transparency.

Eifler said the Board felt it was more appropriate to have a discussion with Dwight Hall stakeholders before moving ahead.

“We believe we need to develop a broad consensus within the Dwight Hall community that this is the appropriate action to take,” he said.

University President Richard Levin said he would support the deal between Dwight Hall and the Office.

“It would be consistent with our general guidelines to help out the management of the endowments of organizations that are connected to the University,” he said.

Dwight Hall’s endowment was originally part of the private investment firm Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo & Co., but the trustees decided to try to change institutions because the current firm cannot compete with Yale’s investment capabilities and they found that the company had no SRI policies in place.

Eifler said the trustees met two weeks ago to vote on whether to start the process to move Dwight Hall’s endowment. After voting to continue with the move, the group met Thursday with students and members of the Board of Directors and the Student Executive Committee, two governing bodies of Dwight Hall, to discuss the proposal, he said.

Before the trustees’ meeting, two student members of Dwight Hall — Hugh Baran ’09, member of the Board of Directors and Frances Kelley ’08, liaison to the ExComm for the Social Justice Network, a Dwight Hall social activism umbrella organization — submitted a memorandum to the trustees, the ExComm and the SJN requesting that the decision be postponed.

The SJN said the endowment would have “serious implications for Dwight Hall’s independence and autonomy,” because the Office does not sufficiently practice socially responsible investing — an investment practice that emphasizes moral and social beliefs — and that more student discussion is necessary before the trustees can make a decision. The memorandum was written after about two months of student research into the University’s SRI policy, Eifler said.

In response, the trustees decided last week to postpone the proposal until a discussion takes place, so the Cabinet is satisfied that the venture is a good decision, he said.

But the trustees have been evaluating the SRI policy since they first suggested to the Board of Directors in January that they move Dwight Hall’s endowment. After their research, the Trustees were satisfied with Yale’s SRI policies, Eifler said.

“Because [the student members of Dwight Hall had researched the issue in] such a short time frame, they didn’t really have time to consider all sides of the equation,” he said. “They only had time to do small research, so we decided to give them a bit more time to reach a real consensus.”

Kelley said the Corporation approved the deal contingent upon the Dwight Hall community discussion and the community’s approval of the decision to move forward.

“I’m very excited that the Board of Trustees is waiting on this situation and they are waiting to have a conversation with the students,” she said. “I am very glad Dwight Hall is an institution that does value student leadership.”

Deborah Rose ’72 GRD ’89, chairwoman of the Board of Directors, said she is honored that the Corporation has accepted the proposal, but that discussion between all the layers of Dwight Hall government is important before proceeding.

“I see the role of the board as supporting the students, but as with any community, no one person represents all of the students, so there are divergent opinions within the student group,” she said. “Right now, we have an opportunity for continuing dialogue and we will take that opportunity as a learning experience for all of us.”

Jessica Bialecki ’08 — a member of the Board of Directors and Dwight Hall co-coordinator for the ExComm — said the committee is pleased that the discussions are underway and that this week they will start structuring the process of encouraging compromise among all involved parties.

If conversations follow through and the ExComm finishes determining the details of the deal, votes for the resolution to move the endowment could happen as early as November, Kelley said.

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