Yale Corporation to discuss financial crisis

In the two months since the last meeting of the Yale Corporation, a new dean has stepped up in Yale College, a young dean has stepped out at the School of Management, and designers have worked furiously on plans for the new residential colleges.

As if that were not enough, the national economy slid into a recession.

The 19 members of the University’s highest governing body will be busy, then, as they gather Friday for the first time on Yale’s campus this academic year. The Corporation’s agenda is kept secret in advance of its meetings, but University President Richard Levin said in an interview that the global financial crisis would be high on the list of matters for the Corporation to consider.

“As always, there will be a mix of the various committees and their reports,” Levin said Monday. “But the financial situation will be part of the agenda for this week and will of course be a part of all our discussions.”

In a telephone interview after Harvard University announced that its endowment had lost some $8 billion in just a few months, Levin hinted that Yale might disclose its year-to-date endowment returns later this month.

Traditionally, neither Harvard nor Yale reveals its endowment performance until the fiscal year’s end on June 30.

“I will be releasing a statement next week about Yale’s financial condition and about contemplated budget strategies,” Levin said in a follow-up conversation Tuesday.

While much has changed since the Corporation’s last meeting in early October — held at an off-site retreat in Jackson, Wyo. — the economy also dominated discussions then. At that time, Levin said after the retreat, the group considered “pessimistic scenarios” about how the University would respond if its $22.9 billion endowment fell by as much as 10 or 15 percent.

But with the announcement that Harvard’s investments dropped in value by at least 22 percent between July and October, those pessimistic scenarios now seem optimistic.

It is unclear what action — if any — the Corporation will take at its meeting this week to address the economic troubles. Peer institutions Harvard and Cornell universities and Dartmouth College have announced delays in capital projects or instituted hiring freezes.

Also this weekend, the Corporation will formally meet Mary Miller, the newly installed dean of Yale College. The Buildings and Grounds Committee will also present a preliminary report on planning for the two new residential colleges, though a more comprehensive presentation of plans will occur at the group’s meeting in February.

Among all its activities, the Corporation will not find time to meet with the Yale College Council this weekend. YCC President Rich Tao ’10 said his group was set to meet with the Corporation on Friday, but that their meeting was cancelled because a special session related to the financial crisis was added to the Corporation’s agenda.

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