University administrators have long advocated pulling their endowment funds out of investments that benefit countries that the elites find odious yet while they have divested themselves of holdings in nations such as South Africa or Israel, they are reluctant to pull their chips out of Iran, no matter how many terrorist watch lists U. S. government agencies put the regime on.
To be sure, South Africa’s segregationist sins made the Boer government there an easy target. Israel’s “crimes,” as relayed by the country’s academic critics, are far murkier but appear to center, in the eyes of Ivory Tower detractors of the only Middle East democracy, around the country’s very existence.
You would think that Iran would be a natural choice for the sort of boycott that elites like to orchestrate. Think again.
“My analysis of data compiled by the National Association of College and University Business Officers, with 765 public and private colleges and universities reporting, shows that the total market value of these institutions’ endowments in 2006 was $340 billion,” Candace de Russy wrote on National Review Online on July 31, 2007. “The top 20 of these campuses represent close to 50 percent of the total of all reporting institutions.”
“The magnitude of these 20 endowment funds is such that a large percentage of them, like pension funds seeking broad diversification, are almost certainly investing, to some greater or lesser degree, in firms benefiting the Iranian regime (and the other states on the terror watch lists),” de Russy notes. Indeed, university officials are neither particularly forthcoming in providing the information nor stalwart in their refusal to sell hanging rope to Iran.
“Recent responses to an inquiry by the Senate Finance Committee into certain investments in offshore tax havens by Harvard, Yale, and Stanford are not encouraging,” de Russy observed. “For instance, John Longbrake, a Harvard spokesman, replied the university does ‘not discuss investment structuring.'”
“Chris Yates of Stanford commented vaguely that the university “probably” uses intermediary companies, and Yale’s Karen Peart had no immediate comment.” Dr. de Russy spent twelve tumultuous years on the State University of New York Board of Trustees. “The nation’s higher-education governing boards must exert far greater scrutiny and prudential judgment over their trust funds,” she advises. “University trustees have a fiduciary obligation to ensure the prudent investment of endowments.”
“In that capacity it does not suffice to merely hire a management firm and leave everything to that firm’s discretion,” de Russy warns. “Boards should know how the moneys are being invested and set parameters for their managers.”