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UPDATED: April 2, 2012, at 4:23 a.m.
Harvard Management Company has chosen not to reinvest in funds managed by HEI Hotels & Resorts, according to an email sent by HMC President and CEO Jane L. Mendillo to University President Drew G. Faust.
Harvard announced in December that it would review HEI’s business practices after drawing criticism from labor activists and unions for investing in the company, a hotel chain which has come under fire for repeated allegations of failure to comply with labor regulations. Harvard’s initial announcement that it would reconsider its investment in HEI was met with disappointment from many activists who felt that the University should promptly take a firm stance against HEI.
Mendillo’s email stated that the decision not to reinvest was rooted in “factors related to the HMC portfolio and its strategy and needs” rather than issues related to HEI’s labor practices. HMC is responsible for managing the University’s endowment.
Assistant Vice President of Communications John D. Longbrake wrote in an email that a student inquired about the progress of the review of HEI during Faust’s office hours. Faust sent an email to Mendillo after the conversation to request an update, which prompted Mendillo’s response that HMC had decided not to reinvest.
The University declined to comment beyond Mendillo’s email.
Within the last year, Princeton, Yale Brown, the University of Pennsylvania, Cornell, Vanderbilt, and Swarthmore have all said that they would not reinvest in the company. Following Princeton’s announcement in February, students from both Harvard and Princeton called for Harvard to follow suit.
Devi K. Lockwood ’14, the SLAM member who asked Faust about HEI during her office hours, said she told Faust that she was uncomfortable with Harvard’s relationship with HEI.
“I came out as strong as I could and told President Faust that as a Harvard student, I was really ashamed that Harvard was making its profit at the expense of workers,” Lockwood said.
She said that she hopes that Harvard will continue making socially responsible investment decisions.
Lockwood said she thought the decision was a result of all of the student pressure to not reinvest in HEI.
“I think that Harvard is afraid of backlash,” Lockwood said. “We’re really vain, and we’re really concerned with how the world sees us... If students speak loud enough about an issue, it will be changed, because Harvard doesn’t want potential future donors being ashamed of giving money to the University.”
Harvard’s investment in HEI has been a major focus of Occupy Harvard and the Student Labor Action Movement’s platforms.
“It has been a concerted campaign by students on all of these campuses to get their administrations to not reinvest in HEI,” said Brian Lang, president of UNITE HERE! Local 26, the union that represents Harvard’s dining hall workers.
Lang said that he thought that the news came at a good time because workers at HEI-owned Le Meridien hotel in Cambridge are currently demanding the right to unionize.
“I think it’s a very positive development, and Harvard is doing the right thing,” Lang said. “HEI has a proven track record when it comes to not following the law and worker’s rights.”
Wayne M. Langley, the director of higher education for SEIU Local 615, said that his union welcomed the decision and that it was “the right thing to do.”
“I think the students deserve the credit for raising the issue and standing by the issue,” Langley said.
Langley said that he thinks that HMC continues to be opaque in making investment decisions.
“There’s more work to be done,” Langley said.
—Hana N. Rouse and Justin C. Worland contributed to the reporting of this article.
—Staff writer Dan Dou can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Staff writer Samuel Y. Weinstock can be reached at email@example.com.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
CORRECTION: April 18
An earlier version of this article listed the incorrect writers. Dan Dou and Samuel Y. Weinstock wrote the story.
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