Yale’s unions sent a letter Monday to President Richard Levin requesting representation on two of the University’s investment committees.
Laura Smith and Bob Proto, presidents of locals 34 and 35, asked that a seat be reserved for the unions on both the Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility, or ACIR, and Yale’s Investment Committee. Levin said he has not yet responded to the letter but plans to address the proposal by the end of the week.
The proposal asked that one of the two seats reserved for Yale staff members on the ACIR be filled by a union representative. Currently, both seats are occupied by managerial staff. The ACIR serves as an advisory committee to the Yale Corporation on the ethics of University investments.
Levin appoints the members of the ACIR, which, in addition to the two staff members, includes two professors, two alumni, one undergraduate and one graduate student.
The Investment Committee oversees Yale’s endowment as well as the pension fund. Levin works with the senior fellows of the Yale Corporation to appoint the committee’s 12 members.
Proto said the unions requested a seat on the Investment Committee because pensions are an important issue in this year’s negotiations.
In the letter, union leaders said representation on the committees would strengthen the partnership between Yale and its unions. Proto said union leaders hoped the proposal would initiate a dialogue with the University.
“It seems as though the University has been reluctant to engage in any positive dialogue with us,” Proto said.
The University and its unions have been negotiating contracts since February, although talks have reached a standstill in recent weeks.
Locals 34 and 35 represent nearly 4,000 clerical, technical, service and maintenance workers.
Levin said he has already made decisions on this year’s appointments to the committees.
ACIR chairman and School of Management professor William Goetzmann declined to comment on how the committee plans to respond. But he said he believed the letter should be viewed in light of the current contract talks between the University and its unions.
“My personal view — quite apart from the committee — is that we’re obviously in a period of negotiations, and I think it’s not possible to see [the proposal] outside of that context,” Goetzmann said.
Proto said the move is part of a broader union effort to improve the relationship with the University but does not necessarily involve contract talks directly.
He said he believes union involvement on the committees would be beneficial.
“We feel as though not only do we have a sense of ownership but we also have a vast amount of knowledge,” Proto said.
Goetzmann said that though he has not discussed the appointment process with Levin, he believes the key qualification is that those chosen be able to serve as advisors.
“It’s not necessarily someone that has a particular knowledge of investing,” Goetzmann said. “That’s not a requirement.”