This Wednesday, the Graduate Student Council (GSC) met with University administration to discuss investment strategies related to Stanford’s endowment.
Vice Provost of Graduate Education Patricia Gumport, Board of Trustees Secretary Phil Taubman ’70, Director of Investment Responsibility Kathleen Greenan and Senior University Counsel Eric Wright ’85 attended the meeting to discuss Stanford’s investment policies in response to the GSC’s letter to the Board of Trustees, which expressed their concern about Stanford’s offshore investments.
Kathleen Greenan began the discussion by stating that Board of Trustees is currently reviewing Stanford’s statement on investment responsibility.
“The Board is really looking for input from the community during this process,” Greenan said.
The discussion addressed the efficacy of the Statement of Investment Responsibility and whether it would lead to more transparency in Stanford’s investment decisions.
In response, Wright told the GSC that investment transparency can be hard to achieve due to the competitive nature of investment and because Stanford is a private university that does not rely on taxpayer money.
Taubman said that even Trustees often do not know the specifics of the endowment’s investments.
Some Council members questioned the ethical implications of Stanford’s investments and the University’s reasoning behind its offshore investments.
Wright said that the reason that Stanford sometimes invests outside of the US is to diversify the University’s portfolio.
“A bedrock principle of investing is diversification to improve long term returns,” Wright said. “Diversification is not just across assets, it’s also geographical. It’s important to invest around the world to try and essentially smooth out the endowment return over time and not be subject to the economic cycles of one particular country.”
“The Board [of Trustees] is conscious of the fact that the endowment decisions are a mystery to the community and would like to conduct this decision making in a way that’s more transparent,” Taubman said. “But it’s not a process that will ever achieve the level of transparency that you might hope for.”
“We would definitely like a lot more [transparency],” said Kari Barclay, a GSC representative and Theater and Performing Arts Ph.D. student.
Gumport stayed on to discuss the upcoming Institutional Change Workshop as well. The workshop, scheduled for April 14, aims to create space for graduate students to speak about their issues on campus.
“The goal of this session for graduate students would be to generate a graduate [student] voice at the university and strengthen our presence,” said Barclay.
The GSC voted on the Stanford General Use Permit (GUP) Resolution. After weeks of discussion, the resolution failed to garner a two-thirds majority to pass. Some members voiced their concern that the resolution completely denounced the GUP. However, the GSC began to make plans to draft a new resolution that took into consideration some council members concerns.
The GSC also discussed a resolution to approve a new member of the Constitutional Council. That resolution is slated to be discussed further next week.
Contact Adesuwa Agbonile at adesuwaa ‘at’ stanford.edu.