Students Lobby for University Financial Disclosure

A group of Harvard students and employees in addition to a state senator and representative testified Friday in front of a State House committee in support of a bill that would require the University to reveal a slew of financial information that includes increased information about investments and administrator salaries.

Members of a lobbying group that counts Harvard and several other universities among its members were some of the primary opponents of the bill at the hearing that took place in front of the Joint Revenue Committee.

The proposed bill would a bill require universities with an endowment worth more than $10 million to reveal more information about their investments and reveal the salaries of administrators making over a quarter of a million dollars per year.

Wayne M. Langley—director of higher education for Service Employees International Union Local 615, which includes Harvard custodial workers—urged the committee to hold universities more responsible by passing the bill.

"The core of the issue is that Universities are funded by tax payers' dollars and should be held accountable to the public," he said.

The University, however, felt that forcing it to reveal its investments more than it already does would provide an unnecessary hindrance on such institutions.

"We share the concerns expressed by [Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts] and other non-profits about this legislation as it is drafted. Higher education institutions are currently subject to stringent reporting requirements both at the state and federal levels. We believe this proposed legislation is unnecessarily burdensome because under current state and federal law, non-profits already make significant financial disclosures," University spokesperson Lauren Marshall said.

Sandra Y. L. Korn '14, a member of the Crimson editorial board, who spoke on behalf of the Student Labor Action Movement, told the committee that the bill would ensure the University treats its workers more justly.

Korn said that she was unimpressed with the arguments presented by opponents of the bill.

"Their arguments were not very convincing—they just made me more committed to the cause," Korn said. "I see no reason why this bill should not pass."

Other student speakers included William Poff-Webster '14, a member of the Crimson editorial board who spoke on behalf of the Harvard Democrats, and Serena Y. Zhao '12 on behalf of the Environmental Action Committee.

If the bill passes in the Joint Revenue Committee, it will then be put to a vote in the Massachusetts State House.

Langly, however, was pessimistic about the bill's prospects for moving forward, saying that he did not feel it was initially explained well to the committee members and lamenting the fact that the bill was being argued at the same time as other, more extreme bills which would include taxing Universities.

"Harvard's lobbying budget is millions of dollars. We're down here on Earth and they're up on Olympus hurling lightning bolts," Langley said. "If this were based on an argument, we would win hands down—but it's based on who has political power."

—Staff writer Mercer R. Cook can be reached at mcook@college.harvard.edu.

This story has been revised to reflect the following correction.

CORRECTION: JUNE 13, 2011

An earlier version of the June 12 story "Students Lobby for University Financial Disclosure" misstated the name of the Environmental Action Committee.

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