Brown clarifies investment plans

One day after a Yale official questioned Brown University’s policy regarding investments in HEI Hotels & Resorts, a Brown representative said the university has not ruled out future investments in the company, but emphasized that any decision will hinge on HEI meeting Brown’s ethical standards.

In mid-February, Brown accepted a recommendation from its Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Policy about future investment in HEI, which has been accused of mistreating its workers. Activists praised the university for what they saw as its decision to forgo further investment opportunities with the company. Luiz Valente, the chair of the committee, clarified in an e-mail Tuesday that Brown has not decisively broken from HEI, but will not reinvest unless the hotel chain meets the conditions set by his committee’s recommendation. Brown will honor its current holdings in the company, he added.

“Future investments are possible, but before we reinvest, the Corporation, working with the [Advisory Committee], would have to determine that HEI abides by the conditions set forth in our recommendation,” Valente said in his e-mail. “If that determination cannot be made, Brown won’t reinvest in HEI.”

Both Brown and Yale currently have holdings in HEI. While student activists at the universities have praised Brown’s decision to reassess its investments, Jonathan Macey, the chair of Yale’s Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility, questioned the practical implications of Brown’s choice. Macey said people involved with investments feel Brown’s decision changes nothing, while activists and the media largely believes that Brown “has taken this huge step.”

Valente said Macey has never contacted him regarding Brown’s decision to accept the committee’s recommendation.

Yale is unlikely to alter its policies toward HEI at the moment, Macey said, though his committee will review new facts and documents presented last week by members of the Undergraduate Organizing Committee. Macey added that it is important to not single out HEI, as Yale invests in many companies.

“If HEI were a student in a class, he would say, you know, why are you picking on me?” Macey said. “There are lots of other people with just as bad attendance records.”

According to the UOC, Yale’s investment in HEI totals at least $119 million.

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