Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Who Rules Cooper Union?--Part 9

WHO RULES COOPER UNION?—Part 9: A Look at Cooper Union’s Bristol-Myers Squibb and Vassar College-Yale University/Bain Capital Connections

(A shorter version of this article originally appeared in the Summer 2013 issue of the Lower East Side underground/alternative newspaper, “The Shadow”)

Cooper Union’s Vassar College-Yale University/Bain Capital Connection

Officially, Cooper Union is not institutionally affiliated with either Vassar College or Yale University. Yet in June 2013 a member of the Yale Corporation governing board and policymaking body for Yale University and the president of Vassar College named Catharine “Cappy” Hill was elected to a post on the Cooper Union board of trustees by a unanimous vote—in an “election” in which neither Cooper Union students, Cooper Union faculty members, Cooper Union workers or Lower East Side community residents were allowed to participate.

According to Vassar College’s Form 990 financial filing for 2010, between July 1, 2010 and June 30, 2011, Cooper Union Trustee “Cappy” Hill was given a total compensation package of $619,963 by “non-profit” Vassar College for being Vassar College’s president. In addition, Vassar College provided the former World Bank employee-turned college president an “on-campus house” and paid “annual dues for clubs” that the Vassar College President Hill joined.

One reason Vassar College can apparently provide such a generous total compensation package to Cooper Union Trustee Hill is that the market value of Vassar College’s endowment--$867 million-- is even greater than the current market value of Cooper Union’s endowment. Only 90 other U.S. universities or colleges have endowments whose market value exceeds that of Vassar College; and only 15 other liberal arts colleges have endowments whose market value exceeds that of the college whose president is now also a Cooper Union trustee.

As "The Miscellany News" student newspaper noted in an April 25, 2012 article, “Vassar’s investment portfolio…features stakes in oil pump manufacturers, tobacco corporations and other controversial bodies;” and “is comprised of a diverse pool of assets—stocks, bonds, shares in mutual funds, hedge funds, private equity and venture capital, real estate partnerships, and oil and gas partnerships are all in the mix.” And as Gabriel Dunsmith observed in an “Open Letter to Vassar College Board of Trustees” on February 23, 2013:

“Vassar’s endowment has also shown remarkable growth in the last few years…Between 2008 and 2011, the endowment grew from $700 million to $814 million—an increase of more than sixteen (16) percent in just three years…”

Since about l0 percent of Vassar College’s endowment is invested in Big Oil corporations like Exxon, BP and Shell, however, students at Vassar College have recently raised some moral objections about how the college that Cooper Union Trustee Hill is president of has been investing its endowment funds. As an article by Jessica Tarantine from the "Miscellany News" from late 2012 reported:

“The Vassar Greens are currently mounting a campaign for the College to divest fully from fossil fuels. While originally a grassroots movement from the Greens, the campaign has gained support from other organizations, such as the Feminist Alliance, Vassar Animal Rights Coalition, and the Grassroots Alliance for Alternative Politics….The organization received word that the College holds investments in the fossil fuel industry….such as Exxon, BP and Shell...The exact amount of Vassar’s endowment invested in fossil fuels is hard to determine. While the College can tell that 8-9 percent of its endowment is invested in fossil fuels through co-mingled funds–which are similar to mutual funds and publish their holdings–and direct ownership of stocks, it is unable to determine the amount invested in hedge funds, which do not publish the companies they invest in as the information is considered proprietary. Investments in hedge funds account for roughly 30 percent of the College’s endowment.

“But Vice President for Finance and Administration Betsy Eismeier did give a figure for the amount the College holds direct investments and in portfolios which we know contain fossil fuel companies. `My understanding is that we know of about $73 million in the portfolio spread across a wide number of underlying fund managers that is invested in companies producing fossil fuel,’ she wrote in an emailed statement…”
(end of part 9)

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