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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Editorial: Need for transparency is clear

Published: October 8, 2010
Section: Editorials

This week, Senior Vice President of Finance and Chief Financial Officer Frances Drolette told The Hoot that the university uses roughly 12 percent of its endowment for operating expenses. At the same time, Senior Vice President for Communications Andrew Gully would not give examples of the university’s real estate investments, private investments or alternative investments, in accordance with the university’s policy to not discuss university investments.

While this urge to keep financial matters underwraps during economically trying times is understandable, it is not acceptable.

In the past year alone we have seen academic cuts, staff firings and retirement contributions suspended due, in part, to a negative endowment return. The endowment has a direct effect on financial aid, department chairs, fellowships and research opportunities, among many other areas. This revenue is crucial for the university to function and offer the education students demand. We are not saying that the university is making poor decisions in its investments, but we want to know where the money is being spent.

We believe that all members of the Brandeis community have a right to know where the university’s budget money comes from and how the endowment is invested.

Considering the context of the global economic crisis, we realize that there were significant decreases in endowment and revenue. In fact, these troubling economic times should provide all the more reason for the university to be transparent about where it invests its money.

This won’t be the first time the university has been found less than forthcoming. is an outside organization that ranks colleges across the country for their commitment to the environment and green-friendly practices. While this is a separate issue, one for which Brandeis of course scores competitively; they also rank a university’s endowment transparency.

It’s the only “F” the university receives. Every year.

Drolette also told The Hoot this week that the university’s endowment gain this year is better than some other institutions that have reported their endowments thus-far.

However, when focusing on endowment transparency, it seems that Brandeis could learn something from the Ivy Leagues.

Both Harvard and Yale have received an “A” in endowment transparency on their report cards for the past two years, and each university releases lists of their investments along with a record of how their proxies vote on shareholder issues.

The university should have nothing to hide. The endowment has a direct effect on every aspect of the university, and when something permeates campus life to this extent, transparency is a must.