Statement On Endowment Returns

October 13, 2021

By Dartmouth YDSA & the Dartmouth Radical

 

A statement on recent announcements by the Dartmouth administration on the 46.5% endowment return and what they mean for the community.

 

To the Dartmouth and Upper Valley community:

 

On October 11th, Dartmouth announced an endowment return of 46.5%, drastically bumping the value of the endowment up to $8.5 billion—up $2 billion from its previous $6 billion. Although this was an immense increase from the 12.8% average annual returns of the past decade, it followed a pattern exhibited by the endowments of other wealthy colleges and universities, and in general, an upwards wealth flow observed during the pandemic. In addition to long-term infrastructure investments, Dartmouth also announced, in line with the return, the “elimination of expected parent contribution” for families making up to 65K with “typical assets,” a one-time 3% bonus to “eligible employees,” an increase in student worker minimum wage from $7.75 to $11.50, and a one-time 1K bonus to graduate students with stipends. 

 

The Dartmouth YDSA & the Dartmouth Radical make the following statements on the announcement:

  1. WE WERE RIGHT, DARTMOUTH COMMUNITY SUFFERED FOR NOTHING: This development soundly proves correct our assessment of the unnecessary, cruel and misguided austerity policies Dartmouth put in place during the pandemic. Throughout the pandemic, Dartmouth instated drastic budget cuts, laid off employees, forsook vital resources to the community (as exposed by hundreds of students’ dependence on the Dartmouth Student Union’s mutual aid fund), and engaged in exploitative labor practices under the guise of economic hardship. Dartmouth had projected nearly $90 million in lost revenue and recouped this projected loss through austerity—and soon found out that the projection was incorrect; instead of losing revenue, it came out that the College had in fact made more money than ever. Its policies have done irreparable harm not only to the Dartmouth community but also to the Upper Valley in general. The policy of austerity was unnecessary, and worsened the effects of the pandemic on the community, instead of protecting it. Dartmouth must apologize for its mismanagement of the process, but that is far from being enough.

  2. DARTMOUTH HAS NOT ENDED AUSTERITY, DARTMOUTH MUST END AUSTERITY: While pandemic austerity was unnecessary, we recognise that it was not arbitrary. It was in line with the financialization of the university and an ideology and practice of austerity surrounding the endowment, which preaches the constant enlargement of the fund for the sake of “long-term well-being”. While these announcements represent an acknowledgment of the excesses of pandemic austerity, not only do they not signal a change of course from usual austerity, but they also constitute the absolute minimum community return possible. 

    1. STAFF & GRADUATE WORKERS NEED STRUCTURAL CHANGES: The staff & graduate worker bonuses do not represent structural changes in Dartmouth’s labor practices. Dartmouth continues to exploit the temporary & permanent worker divide in its staff workforce, using the former as a poverty-waged, de facto union-busting contingent. We continue to hear horror stories of Dartmouth imposing forced demotions on temporary workers, putting them at risk of termination, and forcing them to face emotionally exploitative policies of management. Dartmouth’s previous bonus initiative was replete with discriminatory practices among its workforce. Graduate workers have the highest rent-to-stipend ratio of any Ivy+ school at around 55% and many continue to live below the poverty line, which is in itself an absurd metric. They typically work more than 40 hours a week and do not have full insurance coverage. The bonus will not ameliorate these concerns. Dartmouth must commit to a living wage for all of its employees, temporary or permanent, with all due benefits and entitlements. Graduate student pay must match or exceed that of other comparable schools, with proper attention paid to housing expenses. Furthermore, it must set out a transparent housing policy which responds to the existing housing crisis in the Upper Valley, and explore public options that do not thrust the most precarious into the hands of predatory landlords.

    2. STUDENT WORKERS WANT A PROPER MINIMUM WAGE: The campus-wide increase of the minimum wage is a welcome development, but it is far from enough. The “$7.75 minimum wage” seldom existed in practice, and $11.50 is no less a travesty. We deserve fair pay and refuse to be used as a cheap alternative to hiring more staff workers, to the detriment of both students and workers. Student workers deserve to be paid at least $15 an hour: a still insufficient, but proper increase that Dartmouth has been demonstrated to have the ability to afford, and increasingly necessary in light of increasing costs of survival.

  3. DARTMOUTH’S GAINS HIGHLIGHT THE UPWARDS WEALTH FLOW OBSERVED DURING THE PANDEMIC: While hundreds of millions have been pushed into extreme poverty during the pandemic, the richest 2000 people on Earth have enjoyed a $3.9 trillion boost to their wealth. Millions in the US lost their jobs, and along with them their insurances and life savings. Rents rose all around the country (the Upper Valley included), while austerity policies such as hour and wage cuts pushed the working people further and further into precarious life. The richest people, banks, and companies benefited from the decline of the working class: the stock market soared, and so did Dartmouth’s endowment. We thus understand that the enormous increase in the endowment is an index of the failure of capitalism to provide for human life. This further highlights the necessity to engage with the community in Upper Valley and New Hampshire, the plight of which has been the wealth of Dartmouth. 

  4. Currently, a nationwide wave of strikes is underway, and workers are rising up against the austere workplace. Student worker organizing is gaining pace. Graduate workers are building immense power and are changing the labor landscape of academia. We believe a better world is possible, and necessary. We believe that it is the united force of workers which will bring it. 

 

Going forward, we will do the following:

  1. Continue organizing in the community to build power for students and workers.

  2. Hold the College accountable for its policies of austerity.

  3. Connect further to the national and international struggle for a just society.

 

Join us:

  1. Join Dartmouth YDSA; organize with your peers.

  2. Write and edit for the Dartmouth Radical.

  3. Are you a staff, graduate or student worker? Let’s talk.

 

Dartmouth YDSA with the Dartmouth Radical