Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Crimson Editorial About FAS Spending

Smith’s Senseless Spending

Increasing salaries for professors is not the best use of funds
Last week, Faculty of Arts Dean Michael D. Smith announced he would lift the salary freezes placed on faculty and staff last winter by providing two percent merit-based raises to professors and increasing stipends for graduate students by three percent. The Harvard community has not been given a brief on the state of the budget since Sept. 15, so we are unsure of whether the announcement is a sign of budget security or an exception to the FAS policy of late that dictates trimming spending wherever possible. Regardless, Dean Smith’s spending decisions are misdirected. Given the numerous cuts the university has faced since the unfortunate implosion of the economy and subsequent drop in endowment value, several areas of the College need future funds more desperately than professors and graduate students.

We understand the College’s desire, which we share, to attract and retain the best faculty to Harvard in order to protect the quality of research and academics here, and we certainly recognize the value of monetary incentives. That said, we doubt that a modest raise of two percent will do much to keep professors from leaving or spark any noticeable improvements to the Harvard academic experience. Additionally, as one graduate student pointed out, the three percent stipend increase amounts to more funds for groceries but is unlikely to convince anyone to enroll in Harvard’s graduate program. Moreover, we hope that the deciding factor for why one ought to pursue an advance degree at Harvard is something other than the fact that it pays more than at other schools. Professors, moreover, have countless incentives to stay at Harvard besides economic ones.

The announcement that no additional funding will be cut from the Harvard College libraries is great news. We hope that, in the future, funds secured amidst changing budget structures will include similar measures. With any luck, the FAS’s new interest in reinstating secure spending policies will include reabsorbing laid-off staff members or reinstating cut hours as part of an effort to return services to the College and the university as a whole. The funds being directed toward professors and graduate students would conceivably have a bigger impact on the larger Harvard community if applied to initiatives such as bringing back hours in libraries and the Bureau of Study Council, serving hot breakfast, increasing hours for students who hold jobs on campus, and transitioning out of the hour reductions and furloughs many staff members face.

Harvard professors are currently the highest paid in the country, according to a report by the American Association of University Professors. When compounded with the level of prestige attendant to professorship here, most professors are deeply contented to be on the faculty of Harvard University. Similarly, many students are already eager to earn a graduate degree here; providing extra incentives need not be our priority right now. While the goal of preserving the quality of teaching and research at Harvard is an essential one, these raises will have little impact. Instead, Dean Smith should have directed FAS funds toward returning staff and services—spending for which the student benefits are much more certain.

HUCTW Election Results

On December 8, 2009, HUCTW workers voted in the few elections that were contested for Union Representative and Executive Board.  The slate that was put together by the No Layoffs Campaign (about which you can still find information about on this blog), did as well as could be expected: Geoff Carens, Emeka Onyeagoro and Phebe Eckfeldt were all elected as Union Reps. (Official list of winning candidates can be found here: http://www.huctw.org/elections/200912_ebd/200912_elections.htm)

Despite a severe lack of resources to campaign with (including a lack of time off), over 200 people voted for one of the No Layoffs Campaign's three candidates for executive board, and while the margins were not close, this shows a significant number of HUCTW members who support these ideas.

This was a huge opportunity to reach out to Harvard workers about the No Layoffs campaign and its firm opposition to layoffs, budget cuts and work load increases.  We spoke to many of our co-workers who shared our concerns.

FAS Sees Light at End of Fiscal Tunnel

Dean Smith Presents Positive Picture of FAS Finances at Faculty Meeting
Gomes makes case for faculty membership on the Corporation

Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Michael D. Smith delivered a notably optimistic financial outlook for FAS yesterday, though the University’s largest school faced a projected $110 million annual deficit as of Sept. 15.
“I believe we are beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel,” Smith said at yesterday’s Faculty meeting. “We are not done by any means yet, but it is also a start to resolve some of these questions and theoretically give some comfort to people about the direction of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.”

Meanwhile, University Provost Steven E. Hyman sought to alleviate some professors’ concerns that the Task Force on University Libraries—which released a wide-ranging blueprint for overhauling Harvard’s library system in November—is focused on change solely in the context of cutting costs.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Workers, Students Rally Against Layoffs

Workers, Students Rally Against Layoffs
Union members and supporters express discontent with budget cuts
By Jacob D. Roberts, CONTRIBUTING WRITER
Published: Thursday, December 03, 2009
Rally for Workers

Harvard workers and their supporters rally outside of the Holyoke Center yesterday evening. Rally participants chanted slogans and held signs that urged Harvard to rehire laid-off workers.

Several dozen Harvard employees and students rallied outside the Holyoke Center last night, protesting the budget cuts that may dim the holiday season for some University staff.

Monday, November 30, 2009

No More Layoffs - Rehire all laid off workers - Rally - Wednesday, Dec 2, 5pm

Hey Harvard--NO MORE LAYOFFS!

Rehire the Laid-Off Workers! No Furloughs!

RALLY! Wed., Dec 2, 5pm

Holyoke Center, 1350 Mass. Ave. Cambridge

(next to Au Bon Pain, Harvard MBTA stop)


Harvard University’s highly-speculative investments caused its endowment to soar during boom times. Predictably, when the market tanked, Harvard’s risky bets on private equity, hedge funds, etc., lost some money. Refusing to resort to pay cuts for top administrators like many other institutions, Harvard has chosen to balance its books mainly on the backs of lower-paid workers. Hundreds of staffers have been pushed to retire early amid ominous noises about budget cuts and potential job losses. In June, Harvard announced it would lay off 275 clerical and administrative employees. At least 115 members of Harvard’s largest union, HUCTW/AFSCME local 3650, were laid off, not counting term employees whose contracts were not extended. Five months later, less than half the laid off union members have found non-temp positions at Harvard, despite supposedly having preference for open jobs. Some union members now face furloughs (weeks of time off without pay), when they must continue to pay their usual deductions for health-care, etc. despite getting no paycheck!

Harvard’s endowment is still $26 billion! Despite this huge pile of money, Harvard enjoys “non-profit” tax status and doesn’t pay the taxes that ordinary businesses have to pay. We rally to say that Harvard owes the surrounding communities more than layoffs and furloughs! For more information pls. email nolayoffscampaign@yahoo.com

Sunday, November 29, 2009

FAS to Decrease Size of Faculty (Harvard Crimson)

FAS To Decrease Size of Faculty

Hiring to continue but not at same rate; retirement packages to be offered

19 Nov. 2009
By Noah S. Rayman and Elyssa A. L. Spitzer, CRIMSON STAFF WRITERS

Dean Michael D. Smith said he will shrink the number of professors in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, ending a decade-long expansion in order to offset the school’s $110 million deficit.

Harvard ignored warnings about investments

Harvard ignored warnings about investments
Advisers told Summers, others not to put so much cash in market; losses hit $1.8b

By Beth Healy
Globe Staff / November 29, 2009

It happened at least once a year, every year. In a roomful of a dozen Harvard University financial officials, Jack Meyer, the hugely successful head of Harvard’s endowment, and Lawrence Summers, then the school’s president, would face off in a heated debate. The topic: cash and how the university was managing - or mismanaging - its basic operating funds.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Emeka Onyeagoro


Emeka Onyeagoro
Candidate for HUCTW
Union Rep, Widener

I'm running for Widener Rep because of my strong commitment to social justice. For nearly two decades I've participated in community-oriented activism and organizing. As a Union Rep, I will keep employees updated about union resources and actions. I'll also do everything I can to help union members who have problems on the job.

Before I joined HUCTW, I was elected Shop Steward here at Harvard, as a Security Officer in SEIU (Service Employees' International Union) local 615. I acted as a source of information, and investigated and handled grievances. I won major, precedent-setting cases, including reversing terminations, and recovered union members' lost wages and vacation days. I fought for and won unemployment benefits and back pay for my fellow workers. I also served on the union negotiating team at our contract talks with management, which achieved seniority rights, much-improved wages, and an effective grievance procedure with arbitration, among other benefits.

During the struggle for our first contract, I helped organize large "living wage" rallies on campus. I worked closely with pro-labor students, and with members of HUCTW who supported the security officers. I maintain those links today, and believe that cross-union solidarity and work with sympathetic student organizations can help HUCTW too! We are always strongest when we stand together.

Recently I have participated in the No Layoffs Campaign, initiated by activists in HUCTW. I feel our union should publicly oppose layoffs. We need to make sure that the laid-off workers get rehired! I also believe we should push strongly for seniority rights, which help prevent age discrimination, and make jobs worth keeping, in our next contract. A no layoffs clause in the contract would be a big step forward, and I will advocate for this. Harvard still has incredible resources and I believe we should bargain from a position of strength, and push for good raises and a cost-of-living adjustment, which we need in such an expensive city.

On December 8, I hope you will consider voting for me, and the other members of the No Layoffs Campaign. Together we will win! Please feel free to contact me at eonyeag@fas.harvard.edu.

Phebe Eckfeldt


PHEBE ECKFELDT
FOR UNION REP
Admissions and Financial Aid

A JOB IS A RIGHT! NO LAYOFFS!

I pledge to give 100% to fighting for your job, your wages, benefits and union rights against Harvard's layoffs, cutbacks, drastically-increased workloads and union-busting. I will fight for a real grievance procedure that includes binding arbitration. The version of a grievance procedure we have now can take forever, and typically doesn't help union members who have problems. Our years on the job need to be honored. I feel we should demand dignity and respect.

Harvard is an educational institution, not a bank! Such figures as Ed Forst from Goldman-Sachs, and Robert Rubin, from Goldman-Sachs and Citigroup, have been appointed to the Harvard Corporation. the big investment banks continue to control Harvard's policies. After very risky investments in hedge funds and private equity, etc., made the endowment soar during economic boom times, Harvard naturally lost money when the market crashed. We must demand that Citigroup and Goldman-Sachs stop gambling away the endowment funds on the stock market and get out of our school. There is still $26 billion in the endowment, but Harvard is crying poor and taking it out on us workers. Money for education, staff, the community and student and faculty services, NOT the banks!

We need an active, responsive union with monthly membership meetings, a monthly bulletin and working committees. An informed membership is a strong membership, and a democratic union is a strong union. Members need a direct voice in the upcoming contract negotiations.

It's time to build a fighting union -- an uncompromising voice for the rank and file.

We need to fight racism, sexism and anti-lesbian/gay/bi/trans bigotry on the job and in the community. AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL!

Steve Fake


Steve Fake
Candidate for HUCTW
Union Representative, School of Public Health

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Genevieve Butler

Genevieve Butler
Candidate for HUCTW
Union Representative, Social and Political Sciences

Desiree Goodwin


Desiree Goodwin
Candidate for HUCTW Executive Board:
Professional Region

Joshua Koritz


Joshua Koritz
Candidate for HUCTW/AFSCME 3650
FAS Sciences Executive Board
Applied and Physical Sciences Union Representative

Harvard has the money to afford no layoffs, no workload increases and decent wages. I will fight for 6% raises on top of a cost of living ajustment tied to local cost of living indexes.
I want to build open lines of communication and will lend a hand to anyone who has any issue with managers or anyone else. With the continued growth of SEAS, I will work with other union members to address increasing work loads.
I have worked in the Gordon McKay Library in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) for 4 years. In that time, I have attended every possible HUCTW meeting, been active in the No Layoffs Campaign, and have worked on solidarity campaigns with other unions at Harvard and in the greater Boston area.
 

Geoff Carens

GEOFF CARENS
FOR WIDENER
UNION REP + FAS/ARTS
EXECUTIVE BOARD

HUCTW members active in the No Layoffs Campaign are running for Executive Board in three out of five campus regions. We're fielding candidates for Union Representative in several areas. The No Layoffs Campaign seeks to send the message that our union doesn't have to accept job losses, worsening conditions and low raises.

Since the rumors began last spring that union members would face layoffs, we've organized a series of effective rallies that have gotten local, national, and international press. Our actions and the resulting media coverage have put healthy pressure on the university, and may have dissuaded management from making deeper cuts. Serious problems remain, and part of the reason I'm running for office is to call attention to them, and start a dialog about how we can make progress as a union.

Of the (at least) 115 HUCTW members who were laid off this year, only 49 have been placed in regular (not temp) positions. We need a major initiative to get laid-off workers re-hired! Åfter so many employees have retired or lost their jobs, others who remain face increased workloads, often without any additional compensation. Overtime has been eliminated in many departments. Job descriptions have been rewritten. Some HUCTW members have even been "furloughed" --forced to take time off without pay! We need advocates who will represent union members forcefully and effectively. As a Rep, I fight hard, always on the worker's side, and I get good results and win victories.

Harvard will push for concessions in our next contract. I believe we need to counter any pressure to accept less with a strong, determined approach. Our union should publicly oppose layoffs. We should push for good raises, seniority rights, and a cost-of-living adjustment. The Executive Board is the body that currently makes the major decisions on union policy. As a member of the E-Board, I will argue for an assertive approach that puts the needs of union members first.

The E-Board and Rep elections will be held December 8. Between now and then, candidates from the No Layoffs Campaign will be meeting as many union members as we can. To learn more about our effort to strengthen the union, and elect leaders who will be responsive to union members' wants and needs, please contact me anytime at geoff.carens@gmail.com.

-Geoff Carens

Friday, November 13, 2009

Open Letter to AFSCME

Dear AFSCME,
I have a concern about the union election process at Harvard University as administered by the HUCTW incumbents. For the past several years in several elections the incumbents have given nominated challengers paper printout mailing lists with no e-mail addresses on it, and a lot of outdated addresses as well. As part of a reform group that organized rallies against the layoffs, and compiled information on laid off staff, I noticed on this list the names of several people who were laid off in the early summer. Since the incumbents received advance notification and participated in warning various departments that the layoff would affect them, they must have known these e-mail addresses were no longer valid. The incumbents have provided their candidates with an electronic e-mail list, which enables them to broadcast campaign literature to the membership. I formally requested access to a membership list in electronic form that includes e-mail addresses and received no reply from them. My question is if providing unequal advantages to incumbents during an elections is in any way a violation of the bylaws. It seems unfair and undemocratic. Our elections will occur in early December. I would appreciate a response before then if possible.

Desiree Goodwin

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Boston Globe announces Top 100 employers - Harvard doesn't place

The Globe 100's top places to work
 http://www.boston.com/jobs/topworkplaces/2009/globe100_top_places_to_work/
The Globe invited more than 1,000 companies to participate in the second annual Top Places to Work. Of those, 269 organizations went all the way through the process, allowing us to conduct a confidential survey of their workers. Research partner WorkplaceDynamics of Exton, Pa., specialists in employee engagement and retention, contacted more than 160,000 employees at those companies, and received surveys from 86,000 individuals. Each was asked to grade their organization's performance according to 24 distinct statements, ranging from "This organization demonstrates it values employees during difficult times" to "It's easy to tell my boss the truth."

Monday, October 26, 2009

Faculty of Arts and Sciences Reports Unexpected Surplus

Faculty of Arts and Sciences Reports Unexpected Surplus
Published On 10/26/2009 2:30:51 AM
By BONNIE J. KAVOUSSI and ESTHER I. YI
Crimson Staff Writers

In a move that brought clarity to why administrators have tamed fiscal messages after months of stressing the Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ impending financial deficit, FAS Dean Michael D. Smith delivered the news Friday that the school had posted a $58.6 million surplus in its unrestricted funds for the fiscal year that closed in June 2009.

The figure, released on Friday in Smith’s Dean’s Annual Report, was balanced by a consistent emphasis that most of the gains were “the result of one-time events,” and that, as expected, much remains to be done to close a remaining $110 million deficit.

Still, Smith noted that FAS received about $33 million in unrestricted gifts from two anonymous donors this past year, while also making a strategic withdrawal of $20 million in cash from its endowment to help offset the increased costs of the middle-income financial aid initiative.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

University Pays $500 Million To Cut Losses

University Pays $500 Million To Cut Losses

Published On 10/19/2009 12:03:13 AM

By PETER F. ZHU
Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard’s decision to use derivative investments to lock in low interest rates on the school’s mounting debt cost the University $500 million this past year and will cost it at least $425 million more over the next few decades, according to the University’s annual financial report released Friday.

Harvard entered into interest rate swap agreements—which are used to hedge against rising interest rates—in 2004, when it seemed that interest rates had reached favorable lows and that locking in those rates would help the University finance its mammoth, long-term expansion into Allston. But the agreements backfired this past year when the global financial crisis pushed interest rates to unprecedented lows, thereby decimating the value of the swaps.

Harvard, looking to safeguard its cash supply from the increasing threat of losses associated with the swaps, decided to post $500 million in collateral this past year to terminate agreements on $1.1 billion of its debt. In addition, the University will pay another $425 million over the next 30 to 40 years for new “offsetting” interest rate swaps, which will essentially negate the effect of the original swaps on $764 million of its debt.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Harvard Buys Updike Archive - What budget cuts?

Harvard buys Updike archive
Collection includes late writer’s reviews, letters, manuscripts

John Updike, as a senior at Harvard, in 1954. John Updike, as a senior at Harvard, in 1954.
By Tracy Jan Globe Staff / October 7, 2009

Harvard University has acquired the manuscripts, correspondences, and other papers of John Updike, a celebrated member of the Class of 1954 who kept a Harvard library card and frequently visited the campus to research the contemporary culture that enlivened his acclaimed fiction.

The university will announce today that Houghton Library, Harvard’s primary repository for rare books and manuscripts, will house the John Updike Archive, making the library the center for studies on the life and work of the two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and prolific novelist, poet, and critic. College officials would not disclose how much Harvard paid to acquire the papers of Updike, who died in January at 76.

“John Updike is a terribly important American, given his cultural and literary achievement,’’ said William Pritchard, an English professor at Amherst College who chronicled the writer’s life and work in “Updike: America’s Man of Letters.’’ “It’s an extraordinary thing that his university is where his papers have landed.’’

Lined up, the entire archive stretches 380 linear feet. It spans 1,500 books, including Updike’s collection of his own work, published in foreign languages and English, as well as books Updike reviewed - with his pencil marks underlining the text, making notes in the margins, or bracketing a particularly well-turned phrase.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Public Meeting 10/7

How Can We Fight Layoffs in this Recession?
A Discussion with Socialist Alternative and members of the No-Layoffs Campaign at Harvard

Co-sponsored by the Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM) at Harvard

Free and Open to the public

Wednesday, October 7
7:00pm
Philips Brooks House, Parlor Room
Harvard Yard

Millions have been laid off since this recession began over a year ago, including many of our co-workers and friends here at Harvard. Even with the media talking about signs of recovery in the U.S. economy, layoffs continue around the country and internationally, including here at Harvard. Working people who have escaped layoffs are under more and more pressure to produce in under-staffed workplaces while wondering if they'll be the next to lose their jobs.

How can workers and youth fight against layoffs that impoverish whole communities? Layoffs need to be fought locally but also on a regional, national and international basis. Outsourcing, both domestic and foreign, continues to devastate as global corporations race to find the lowest wages.

The discussion continues on strategies and tactics to fight layoffs and reinstate workers at Harvard as well as how to link fights against layoffs in individual workplaces to a more generalized fight for jobs, extended unemployment benefits, stopping layoffs, etc.

Attend this meeting and help further the discussion of strategy and tactics in fighting layoffs and also learn more about on-going actions, including at Harvard, the Oct. 1st rally in Boston and beyond.

For More Information:

boston@SocialistAlternative.org 774-454-9060

Monday, September 28, 2009

UC Establishes Budget Cuts Task Force

UC Establishes Budget Cuts Task Force
Published On Sunday, September 27, 2009 11:47 PM

In its inaugural meeting of the school year, the Undergraduate Council voted yesterday to establish a Budget Cuts Task Force, which the Council hopes will serve as a “centralized mechanism” for communication between students and the administration regarding budget cuts.

The ad hoc task force is charged with “coordinating all of the UC’s work as it relates to the budget cuts,” including advocacy for revisions to proposed cuts, recommendations for future cuts, solicitation of student feedback, and expression of student ideas and concerns, according to the legislation.

The task force is expected to work closely with the student life and College academics ad hoc working groups, which were commissioned in May by Dean of the Faculty Michael D. Smith to make recommendations on budget cuts to the administration.

“It’s really important that we have centralized mechanisms for us to communicate with the working groups,” Andrea R. Flores ’10, UC president and one of the co-sponsors of the legislation, said during the meeting.

“[Budget cut discussions] are going on in all dining rooms, all dorm rooms, in all UC committees,” said Mather representative and legislation co-sponsor Eric N. Hysen ’11. “The task force’s role is making sure all of those conversations are going towards a productive end.”

The ad hoc task force will be comprised of at least 5 UC members, who will be selected in an application process at the discretion of the UC Executive Board, though meetings will be open to all students.

Flores and Vice President Kia J. McLeod ’10 emphasized that student commitment and proper representation of all the UC committees would be important factors in selecting the members.

Although specifics of the task force’s operations have yet to be decided, Hysen said it is likely to be one of the most active divisions of the UC this semester.

“Our goal is to have [the task force] up and running very quickly,” he said.

The Council also passed legislation supporting the administration’s decision to consider reforms to the Administrative Board.

Based on the recommendations of a faculty review committee of the Ad Board, commissioned last year at the suggestion of the UC, Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds announced several major Ad Board reforms at a Faculty meeting in May.

One reform reduced the size of the audience that students face in Ad Board hearings from 35 administration and faculty members to a smaller sub-committee. Students will also have greater flexibility if they wish to select an advisor other than their resident dean.

Another reform that will be considered by the Faculty this semester will broaden the range of possible sanctions for first-time academic dishonesty.

“The Ad Board hasn’t been changed in over a century,” said Hysen, who co-sponsored the legislation. “This is one of the more significant things the administration has done.”

“We should commend the administration when it does really good things for student life,” Flores said.

—Staff writer Melody Y. Hu can be reached at melodyhu@fas.harvard.edu.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Protesters Highlight Health Concerns

Protesters Highlight Health Concerns

Students and union activists protest layoffs and hours reductions for janitors in front of the Holyoke Center yesterday. They say that sanitation standards will slip, and health and safety will suffer as a result.
See more pictures for this story.
Published On Thursday, September 17, 2009 12:38 AM


Union activists and students at yesterday’s labor rally added to their tried-and-true repertoire of bullhorn blasting and sign waving to walk to Mass. Hall to deliver a modest gift to University President Drew G. Faust: a bag labeled “Get Well Harvard,” filled with cards from protesters.

But the gesture was not a sarcastic reference to the University’s recently-announced 30 percent drop in endowment value.

Instead, the cards left space for people to write “recommendations for a healthy Harvard,” and were intended to highlight a message—that the health of Harvard’s workers is deteriorating, and that the well-being of students and staff will suffer soon as well. Protesters argued that recent layoffs and hour reductions have left janitors with more to do in less time, and that sanitation standards will inevitably suffer—hurting the rest of the Harvard community.

“The first line of defense [against disease] is sanitation, and that’s the function of janitors,” said Daniel B. Becker, a union organizer who represents Harvard’s service workers.

A Harvard police officer accepted the gift bag and brought it into Mass. Hall, but it is unclear if Faust received the offering. Harvard spokesman Kevin Galvin declined to comment on the matter, saying only that he was “confident cleaning standards are being maintained” and that no Harvard-employed janitors have been laid off this summer.

But the University did slash work hours for over 100 of its own janitors in July, and numerous janitors it employs through outside firms—a group not addressed by Galvin’s statement—have been laid off in recent months as a result of reduced custodial budgets.

Abigail S. Brown ’11, a member of the Student Labor Action Movement, said that officials need to understand that there are “all sorts of people that make up Harvard and need to be recognized as valuable.” While yesterday’s actions were not intended to be conciliatory, Brown said SLAM would be employing various new strategies this year, hopefully embodying more “positive spin” than in the past.

“SLAM is not an anti-Harvard organization,” Brown reiterated.

But other attendees of the rally were more militant. Chanting repeatedly “No justice, no peace,” and “Harvard, escucha, estamos en la lucha” (Harvard, listen, we are in a fight), roughly 50 protesters picketed outside the Holyoke Center, denouncing what they called Harvard’s greed and calling for shared sacrifice by administrators. Geoff P. Carens, a Harvard librarian and union member who frequently organizes such vocal protests, ridiculed the University for saying that it was in the midst of a fiscal crisis and had to lay off workers when the endowment still stands at $26 billion.

“These people don’t know what a tough decision really is. They’ll never know what it’s like to struggle for something worthwhile,” shouted Bryan Koulouris, a member of advocacy group Socialist Alternative, to the gathered protestors. “That’s what this struggle’s about: It’s about solidarity.”

—Staff writer Peter F. Zhu can be reached at pzhu@fas.harvard.edu.

Monday, September 14, 2009

RALLY 9/16 4-6 p.m., 1350 Mass. Ave. Cambridge


Somewhere between 97 and 130 unionized clerical workers have been laid off in recent months at Harvard, not even counting term employees whose contracts weren't renewed. 35 Harvard custodians have lost their jobs. Hundreds of other administrative staffers and less-than-halftime employees have been let go. About 150 custodians suffered a 12.5% reduction in their already-low salaries, with no decrease in the amount of work they're expected to do! Hundreds of other workers have taken early-retirement buyouts, and their co-workers are frantically trying to pick up the slack, leading to speed-ups and overwork. Conditions for workers in dining halls are worse than ever.

HARVARD STILL HAS A $26 BILLION ENDOWMENT! The University has increased tuition, and just negotiated a lucrative merchandising deal. Harvard is snapping up millions of shares of investment funds. Let's demonstrate to put healthy pressure on Harvard not to lay off more workers, re-hire the laid-off employees, and stop the pay cuts! Please join union members, unorganized workers, students, faculty & neighborhood activists as we

RALLY!
Wednesday, September 16
Holyoke Center, 1350 Mass. Ave, Cambridge (next to Au Bon Pain, steps from Harvard T, flyer is attached)

Workers in SEIU local 615 will demonstrate at 4 p.m, clerical workers will appear at 5 p.m., both at 1350 Mass. Ave. We'll rally at least until 6 p.m.!

Facebook group: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=139256136134

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Harvard Endowment, Largest in Higher Education, Plummets by 27%

Harvard Endowment, Largest in Higher Education, Plummets by 27%
Largest ever single-year decline brings endowment's value to $26 billion
Published On 9/10/2009 4:00:12 PM
Harvard’s invested endowment assets took a 27.3 percent hit this past fiscal year, amidst an economic maelstrom that Harvard Management Company CEO and President Jane L. Mendillo called “very likely the most challenging period in modern times for the financial markets as well as for the Harvard portfolio.”

The decline brought the total value of the endowment as of June 30 down to $26 billion—on par with 2005 levels—after reaching almost $37 billion in 2008. The negative investment returns, combined with donations received and money paid out for operations, pushed the endowment’s total value down by $11 billion, or almost 30 percent.

Despite the losses—which were more than the total endowments of any other schools except Yale, Princeton, and Stanford—Harvard’s endowment remains the largest in higher education.

“[W]e saw extreme uncertainty in our economy and a level of volatility and dysfunction in many types of investments that went well beyond all previous experience,” wrote Mendillo, who took the helm at HMC only last summer. The decline—the largest ever experienced at HMC, which manages Harvard’s endowment—was not unexpected, and administrators have been planning for a 30 percent decline since December. Many peer institutions have been anticipating similar losses.

The unprecedented drop has dramatic ramifications for Harvard’s schools, some of which rely on annual payments from the endowment for more than half their income. The Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the University’s largest school and home of Harvard College, drew 52 percent of its revenues from the endowment last year. Planning for a precipitous drop in endowment size has already resulted in $77 million in budget cuts at FAS, and administrators are looking to cut another $143 million this year from a budget of just over $1 billion.

Mendillo emphasized in the endowment report released Thursday that the portfolio is “well positioned” to seize on new investment opportunities and to support University operations. But the report also supplies telling details about the brutal losses sustained by HMC since last July—losses that in many cases exceeded those of standard benchmarks. Possible investment policy missteps that exacerbated the effects of the global financial crisis on HMC, such as the maintenance of an insufficient cash reserve, are mentioned prominently as well.

Absolute return investments, which include some externally managed funds and made up 18 percent of the portfolio at the start of the last fiscal year, fell by 18.6 percent, or 5.4 percent more than the benchmark set by HMC’s board. The value of externally managed private equity holdings, representing 13 percent of the portfolio, dropped by a staggering 31.6 percent—nearly 8 percent more than the benchmark.

“With a few notable exceptions, nearly every asset class did poorly,” Mendillo wrote. “While diversification has been a mainstay and a driver of the portfolio’s return over the long-term, the benefits of diversification did not bear out [in 2009].”

The S&P 500 index fell roughly 28 percent during the period addressed by Mendillo’s letter, while peer investment groups as measured by the Trust Universe Comparison Service saw a softer median loss of 18.2 percent.

As a whole, the endowment performed 2.1 percent worse than the Policy Portfolio—a theoretical portfolio set by HMC specifying allocations and setting performance goals among a mix of asset classes. But certain individual assets have performed well. The report noted that the value of Harvard’s real asset holdings fell by 37.7 percent—slightly less than the benchmark—and that internal emerging markets and international fixed income teams outperformed their benchmarks as well.

As a result of this year’s broad underperformance, “a substantial number” of portfolio managers have had portions of their bonuses earned in past years “clawed back” by HMC, the report said, although it did not provide more specific figures. HMC, which has been criticized for its multi-million dollar compensation packages in the past, typically rewards managers for adding value and outperforming benchmarks. But it also withholds large portions of the bonuses over subsequent years in order to emphasize long-term growth and protect against excessive risk-taking. The report said that a small group of managers who outperformed markets would be receiving bonuses this year.

Mendillo partly attributed the endowment’s underperformance to “complications” within the portfolio existing before the financial crisis, including “recent over-sized commitments to illiquid asset classes; within asset classes, a larger proportion of strategies with long holding periods; [and] a lack of ready liquidity in the portfolio to meet our obligations along with the needs of the University.”

For years, Harvard has been the subject of scrutiny—and idolatry—as its endowment consistently generated double-digit yearly investment returns, largely due to its heavy exposure to alternative asset classes, which include real estate, private equity, timber, and other commodities. Such investments added long-term value to the endowment and brought sustained growth in previous years, but also reduced the portfolio’s liquidity—meaning that the University’s assets became more difficult to sell and convert to cash on short notice.

When markets plummeted across the board last fall, Harvard, along with many other investors and peer institutions, sought to reduce exposure to those illiquid, alternative assets and instead boost cash reserves for operations. Private equity holdings are especially taxing since they often require ongoing and continued capital commitments from investors.

“With perfect hindsight we and most other investors would have started this year in a more liquid position and with less exposure to some of the alternative asset categories that were hardest hit during FY 2009,” Mendillo wrote in the report.

In November, media outlets began reporting that Harvard was looking to sell billions of dollars in private equity holdings at drastically reduced prices, and in December, the University sold $2.5 billion in bonds in order to raise cash, refinance short-term debt, and terminate certain investment agreements. (Mendillo has stated in the past that HMC began exploring private equity sales even before the financial world imploded, as part of a larger policy portfolio shift that she implemented upon her arrival.) Thursday’s endowment report said that over the past year, HMC has reduced its payments owed to outside investment firms by roughly $3 billion and raised cash in order to explore “attractive investment themes that we foresee emerging from the crisis.”

Today, HMC’s Policy Portfolio aims to include a positive cash reserve of 2 percent, whereas the University had previously been borrowing a small percentage of additional money to invest—a practice that can augment gains but also magnify losses.

Mendillo said that the Company is now also considering remodeling its portfolio to encourage team collaboration, focus more on internal strengths, and reassess the endowment’s risk and the University’s needs. While overall risk management was “adequate” last year and helped avoid extreme volatility, Mendillo wrote that more is being done now to manage risk and that lessons have been learned, particularly that “the risk tolerance of the University needs to be an integral factor” when determining how the endowment is invested.

Nevertheless, HMC will likely hew to the diversified investment model that it has long championed. Mendillo pointed out that even slumping assets such as private equity have delivered high returns when annualized over the past few years. If HMC had simply invested its portfolio in a 60/40 ratio of stocks and bonds 10 years ago, the endowment today would be $18 billion smaller, she wrote.

Mendillo also emphasized that HMC has taken steps this past year to increase flexibility and control over internal and external funds. The report said that she intends to continue using a “hybrid model” of internal and external managers, but that she is not targeting any specific proportion. Instead, she noted that internal management is highly cost effective and that HMC would look to “increase the share of our internally managed assets under the right conditions.”

HMC cut its workforce by roughly 50 employees in February, citing the need to “re-balance and re-engineer” the organization. Since then, the Company has made a string of managerial hires, adding investment experts to several internal teams while appointing new heads of internal and external management from within. Mendillo said HMC has increased its “depth and breadth of talent” over the past year and will continue searching for further individuals with “unique investment insights.”

These recent hires, along with the policy adjustments made over the past year increasing HMC’s liquidity, have laid the foundation for a “solid, innovative and sustainable investment strategy” that gives “ample cause for optimism” over the next few years, Mendillo wrote. But she also called for “realistic” performance expectations over the next several years.

“For Harvard, as for almost every major investor, regaining the market value lost as a result of the recent global economic crisis will take time,” Mendillo wrote.

—Staff writer Peter F. Zhu can be reached at pzhu@fas.harvard.edu.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Losing a Living Wage

Losing a Living Wage
Published On Tuesday, September 08, 2009 10:39 PM

I remember the exact moment when I opened my inbox at an Internet café in Nairobi to see a forwarded e-mail from Marilyn Hausammann, Vice President for Human Resources at Harvard. Painstakingly slow, the page loaded with Hausammann’s announcement of the impending elimination of 275 staff positions. I had been in Kenya for only two weeks, and everything about the thickness of the air, the dirt under my fingernails, and stickiness of the keyboard reminded me of how many thousands of miles I was away from Harvard. I felt disempowered and unable to voice my opinion about the decision.

Now that I have returned, these 275 jobs are a thing of the past. I cannot go back in time, but neither can I accept Harvard’s layoffs, or the most recent hours reductions, that bring workers below a living wage. Harvard must strive to bring these members of the community back to a living wage while finding additional ways of cutting costs that do not jeopardize the jobs and lives of the people who make up this institution.

According to union representatives within Harvard, the administration’s most recent budget-cut tactic has been to implement hour reductions among staff while still expecting essentially the same amount of work to be done in less time. Although hour reductions appear to be a compromise, and perhaps a better option than layoffs, reducing hours continues to ask the lowest-paid workers at Harvard to bear an inequitable share of the financial burden. Staffers are physically strained by the work, and financially strained by the reduction in pay. Although hours reductions are preferable to layoffs because workers retain health benefits along with their continued paychecks, cutting the hours of people who already struggle to make ends meet circumvents the successes of the 2001 Living Wage Campaign. Therefore, although it is possible to see hour reductions as a win for workers, we must not accept them as a permanent solution.

Now that students have returned to campus, it is essential that we not forget the challenges facing the lowest-paid members of our community. Students must remain vigilant of the fact that the university seems to deliberately deceive us on issues involving budget cuts. It is apparent that administrators were merely waiting for students to leave campus before beginning layoffs. Although I had been warned of this, I still felt deceived by leaders of my university, who, weeks before, had shooed away concerns about layoffs by insisting that nothing had been decided and that we need not continue to pester them about layoffs because they simply had not happened. I recognize that there are, and were, many unknowns in this challenging financial crisis, but the administration’s approach demonstrated a failure of moral leadership.

How do students remain vigilant when we are often excluded from the decision-making processes surrounding Harvard’s budget? The first and most obvious way is to maintain our human and personal connections with all people who live and work at Harvard. Whether it means talking with someone who works in your dining hall or stopping to catch up with the janitor you’ve seen in the Science Center, you may learn that someone you see every day has lost an eighth of her salary and can no longer afford to pay rent. These human interactions are a key ingredient to having a respectful community, but they also contribute to the public’s understanding of how administrative decision-making affects real people.

If we know the personal stories and struggles that have emerged from this financial crisis, we may find ourselves more understanding and more dedicated to keeping the people of this university community together. Harvard workers are not a homogenous monolith with the same story, perspective, or needs, but they are individuals whom we can and should know personally and whose struggles we can and should work to alleviate. Students are not the whole answer to the challenges facing Harvard workers, but given that most of us are now back on campus, and as students we do not face the worries of being fired, we ought to be use our position to lobby for the rest of our community. Get involved with social-justice groups, write to administrators, attend rallies, and, most importantly, communicate with the people around you.

Megan A. Shutzer ’10, a Crimson editorial writer, is a social studies concentrator in Dudley House. She is a member of Student Labor Action Movement.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Harvard Boosts Equity Holdings

Harvard Boosts Equity Holdings

Published On 8/31/2009 11:01:26 PM

By PETER F. ZHU
Crimson Staff Writer

The value of Harvard’s publicly traded equity portfolio has nearly doubled in recent months as the University reinvests—particularly in emerging markets and in Asia—after dramatically slashing stock holdings last fall amidst the global financial crisis.

According to a Securities and Exchange Commission disclosure report released in August, Harvard had 112 publicly traded equity holdings valued at over $1.4 billion as of June 30. The figures represent a significant increase from the 99 holdings worth $771 million reported three months earlier.

The SEC’s 13F report only discloses a small fraction of the University’s total investments—it does not list assets such as foreign stocks, private equity, bonds, and real assets—but suggests that in rebounding from recent market turmoil, Harvard Management Company has been boosting its investments in foreign markets by increasing shares in private companies and exchange-traded funds, which are traded like stocks and track major indices such as the Nasdaq and the S&P 500.

HMC is responsible for overseeing Harvard’s endowment, which was valued at nearly $37 billion before the market crash last fall. University officials have planned for a 30 percent drop in the endowment’s value for the year ending June 30. Definitive endowment returns for that period are expected to be released in the next few weeks.

In the three months leading to June 30, the University increased its holdings in the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index Fund—the single largest holding disclosed—from 8.3 million to 9.7 million shares, and the value of those holdings have increased from $205 million to $313 million.

Harvard also more than doubled its holdings in exchange-traded funds (ETFs) tracking South Korean and Indian indices—valued at over $200 million—and the total value of its holdings in ETFs tracking Chinese, Brazilian, South African, and Mexican indices increased from roughly $291 million to $472 million. The University reportedly bought nearly seven million shares in an ETF tracking Taiwanese indices—reversing its earlier decision to sell the two million shares it had in the fund as of last September.

Other investments of note include over $55 million in an ETF tracking Russian indices, and multi-million dollar repurchases of shares in mining giant BHP Billiton and oil and gas producer China National Offshore Oil Corporation.

While the value of Harvard’s equity investments has increased, it remains modest compared to where it stood last September, when the University had nearly $3 billion invested in 213 public equity holdings. Jane Mendillo, president and CEO of HMC, said in an interview with The Crimson in May that she had “accelerated building a cash reserve” last fall—part of a larger policy portfolio change—but that the Company was “aggressively analyzing investment opportunities” and reinvesting cash coming out of the financial crisis. University spokesman John D. Longbrake declined to comment for this article.

HMC announced in early August the appointment of two senior investment managers to the Company’s internal team—a move that seems to dovetail with the apparent emphasis on emerging markets and Asia. Emil Dabora, a senior managing director at New York firm Caxton Associates, was appointed an equity portfolio manager, while Michele Toscani, a veteran of investment groups in Japan, was added to the International Fixed Income team.

—Staff writer Peter F. Zhu can be reached at pzhu@fas.harvard.edu