FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Dartmouth’s Troubling Investments

As a 1988 graduate of Dartmouth, I’m stunned by the college’s parlous state. In recent years, it has been buffeted by a series of tumultuous events on campus, and the resulting negative press reports. In 2012, Rolling Stone published a story about extreme hazing practices (featuring feces and something called a “vomlet”) by a college fraternity. Shortly afterward, a recent graduate told a horrific tale of sorority hazing, published in the Huffington Post, that left her with a blood alcohol level of .399 and nearly dead. Other recently published pieces recount nights of “wild intoxication” or mention the college’s “singularly homophobic, sexist and racist atmosphere.”

Last year also saw the college’s program for admitted applicants — “Dimensions of Dartmouth” — interrupted by undergraduate protesters declaiming loudly that the campus was inhospitable to gays, minorities and others. And just last month, a couple of dozen students occupied the office of college president Phil Hanlon, demanding that he give consideration to their “Freedom Budget,” purportedly designed to make Dartmouth a more equitable and tolerant place.

While all this was going on, the federal Department of Education was conducting a Title IX investigation of the college for alleged mishandling of sexual assault cases. Predictably, applications to Dartmouth this year dropped 14 percent, by far the worst drop-off in the Ivy League.

As for the “Freedom Budget” itself, it has been criticized as naive and utopian. But much of it makes sense, and at least one of its assertions deserves further examination here: “Dartmouth epitomizes power being isolated to rich, white males.” Is that true? If one looks at the Board of Trustees and the self-serving financial maneuverings in which it has indulged, there is no denying it. For many years, hundreds of millions of dollars of the college’s endowment have been channeled into financial firms of a handful of board members.

Last year, the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office said no investigation was warranted into anonymous allegations that Dartmouth College trustees mismanaged the college’s endowment, The Associated Press reported.

Still, the practice is opaque. Dartmouth provides virtually no details beyond acknowledging that around 13.5 percent of its approximately $3.5 billion endowment is managed by companies connected to the Board of Trustees or its investment committee, and that it pays standard industry management charges on this money. (Financial experts say that the norm here would be a 2 percent annual fee, plus 20 percent of any profits.) Meanwhile, the implicated trustees themselves always decline to comment to the press. By engaging in what could be perceived as self-dealing, the trustees created the potential for Dartmouth College’s credibility and reputation to be damaged. And they have been damaged.

Moreover, the incoming chairman of the board — William H. Helman IV — not only has enjoyed untold profits thanks to his position as a trustee and Dartmouth’s resulting multi-million-dollar investments in his firm, Greylock Partners; he also has boasted in The Dartmouth that he basically handpicked the college’s current president. There is no proper oversight of this mutual back-scratching operation. So, while Dartmouth may not consciously set out to function in a way that exalts white male insiders (which describes all the trustees in question) at the expense of everyone else, it does end up doing exactly that. And, to its own detriment. Who now has faith in the college’s governance and investment methods and procedures? Half a dozen insiders make millions off their alma mater and apparently personally select a president who is beholden to them, while thousands of others — nominally members of the vaunted “Dartmouth family” — are saddled with student debt and/or shut out of lucrative decision-making procedures. The inequities are grotesque.

As one of 59,000 undergraduate alumni who have been begged for money by the college’s fundraising operation several times a year since even before we graduated, I think we are owed an explanation of how and why Dartmouth’s endowment has come to be invested in the firms of the trustees themselves. How were these decisions made? What were the exact fees and commissions charged? How much of these were recycled back to the college as “gifts”? Conversely, how much of trustees’ “gifts” to Dartmouth were recycled back to themselves in fees and commissions? Are opportunities to invest a portion of the endowment open to every alum with demonstrable financial acumen? Have the trustees’ self-directed investments beaten what a low-cost index mutual fund would have returned to the endowment?

Recently, when a Dartmouth undergraduate called me from Hanover asking for a donation, I asked her how much ultimately would end up in the pockets of the trustees. That’s a question we should all be able to answer. And along with the other troubling issues, it is essential that it be addressed so that Dartmouth can recover from its recent travails and come to be heralded exclusively as a fine institution of higher learning: Inclusive, welcoming, serious — and, not least, ethical.

Christopher C. Schons, a graduate of Dartmouth College, lives in Arlington, Va.

This column originally ran in the Valley News.

More articles by:

Christopher C. Schons holds an A.B. degree, received magna cum laude, from Dartmouth College. He can be reached at christopher_schons@yahoo.com.

Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
Victor Grossman
Red Flowers for Rosa and Karl
Cesar Chelala
President Donald Trump’s “Magical Realism”
Christopher Brauchli
An Education in Fraud
Paul Bentley
The Death Penalty for Canada’s Foreign Policy?
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Not to Love NATO
Louis Proyect
Breaking the Left’s Gay Taboo
Kani Xulam
A Saudi Teen and Freedom’s Shining Moment
Ralph Nader
Bar Barr or Regret this Dictatorial Attorney General
Jessicah Pierre
A Dream Deferred: MLK’s Dream of Economic Justice is Far From Reality
Edward J. Martin
Glossip v. Gross, the Eighth Amendment and the Torture Court of the United States
Chuck Collins
Shutdown Expands the Ranks of the “Underwater Nation”
Paul Edwards
War Whores
Alycee Lane
Trump’s Federal Government Shutdown and Unpaid Dishwashers
Martha Rosenberg
New Questions About Ritual Slaughter as Belgium Bans the Practice
Wim Laven
The Annual Whitewashing of Martin Luther King Jr.
Nicky Reid
Panarchy as Full Spectrum Intersectionality
Jill Richardson
Hollywood’s Fat Shaming is Getting Old
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Wide Sphere of Influence Within Folklore and Social Practices
Richard Klin
Dial Israel: Amos Oz, 1939-2018
Graham Peebles
A Global Battle of Values and Ideals
David Rovics
Of Triggers and Bullets
Elliot Sperber
Eddie Spaghetti’s Alphabet
January 17, 2019
Stan Cox
That Green Growth at the Heart of the Green New Deal? It’s Malignant
David Schultz
Trump vs the Constitution: Why He Cannot Invoke the Emergencies Act to Build a Wall
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail