Dwight Hall to transfer fund control

Dwight Hall will transfer management of part of its endowment to the Yale Investments Office, group members announced Friday.

Although the Yale Corporation approved the transfer in October, the Dwight Hall Board of Trustees said at the time that it would postpone the move until there was consensus within the Dwight Hall community over the decision.

Students had voiced concerns about the ambiguity of the Investments Office’s policy on socially responsible investing, among other policies, although it was not immediately clear after the announcement whether those concerns had been entirely resolved.

But after consulting with members of the organization, the Board of Trustees has decided to proceed with transferring its endowment, the board said in a statement e-mailed to the News.

Dwight Hall will also create a new, separate fund outside the auspices of the Investments Office that will be dedicated to socially responsible investing, the board said in the statement, although it did not say how much of its $3.3 million endowment would be devoted to the new fund or when the fund would be established.

Board of Trustees Chairman Carl Eifler ’70 and Board of Directors Chairwoman Deborah Rose ’72 GRD ’89 declined to comment Sunday and referred questions to the organization’s statement.

Dwight Hall’s endowment had been managed by the Boston-based investment firm Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo & Co., but trustees determined that they could not compete with the resources and expertise of the Yale Investments Office, trustees have told the News in the past.

Yale’s endowment posted a 28 percent return this year, the largest increase any American college or university reported this year.

But in a memorandum to trustees released in September, two Dwight Hall members raised concerns about the ethics of Yale’s investment practices — in particular, its transparency and past investment in a hedge fund that once had a stake in a controversial private prisons company.

The memorandum prompted Dwight Hall to delay its decision regarding its endowment in order to allow for time to develop “a broad consensus within the Dwight Hall community” about the transfer, Eifler said early last month.

Whether that consensus has been reached was not immediately apparent this weekend.

One of the authors of the memorandum, Frances Kelley ’08, the Social Justice Network liaison to the Dwight Hall Executive Committee, said she supported the creation of a separate fund to pursue socially responsible investing.

“Through this conversation, we’ve all come to the conclusion that this is the best possible solution now,” Kelley said Sunday.

But asked if she still had any reservations regarding the decision to transfer the Dwight Hall endowment to Yale’s Investments Office, Kelley declined to comment.

In an interview Sunday night, trustee David Magee ’49 said he thinks there is a general consensus in favor of the move. Allowing the Investments Office to oversee Dwight Hall’s endowment is fiscally prudent, he said.

“I am wholly in favor of moving Dwight Hall’s endowment to Yale University,” Magee said. The University’s investments record, he said, “is probably the finest of any investment management [organization] in the world, bar none.”

University President Richard Levin has said in previous interviews that only a select number of organizations — whose missions are generally closely aligned with Yale’s — are allowed to join Yale’s endowment fund. Levin said he backs Dwight Hall’s move.

“I’ve supported it all along,” Levin said. “As long as they’re comfortable doing that, we’re happy to give them this opportunity.”

This is not the first time Dwight Hall has attempted to create a separate fund for socially responsible investing. About a decade ago, the trustees allocated $200,000 from the endowment into a socially responsible fund, Magee said. The fund lost half its value in a year, leaving a sour taste in the mouths of Dwight Hall trustees, Magee said.

Dwight Hall, founded in 1886, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to encouraging service and activism among Yale students. The co-coordinators of its executive committee, Jessica Bialecki ’08 and Lauren Jacobson ’08, declined to comment Sunday.

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