Almost a year and a half after students at campuses across the country — including Yale — began protesting their universities’ purported investments in HEI Hotels & Resorts, Brown University president Ruth Simmons sent a letter to the company last month, questioning its “alleged intimidation of workers involved in union organizing activities,” according to a Brown Student Labor Union press release.

Simmons’s letter is a first for the student movement against HEI: No other university has publicly expressed doubts about its investment in HEI before, according to the release.

Acting on a recommendation from Brown’s Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility and Investment Policy, Simmons wrote that the reports of worker intimidation, if true, “would be a matter of deep concern and contrary to our standards for investing.”

Yale’s Undergraduate Organizing Committee has complained to Yale’s own Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility and organized a sit-in at the Yale Investments Office in fall 2008, claiming the University has invested part of its $16 billion endowment with HEI. Student members of the Responsible Endowment Project have since called for Yale to offer greater transparency in its investments, most of which are not disclosed. Yale has previously invested at least $121 million in HEI, according to HEI Securities and Exchange Commission tax forms provided to the News by the UOC in 2008.

The National Labor Relations Board has accused HEI of interrogating workers about union activity and threatening to fire them for organizing. HEI has denied the allegations.