College Finances Lack Adequate Transparency

If, as Board of Trustees Chair Chris Canavan claims, there is no problem with transparency regarding the endowment and finances, we ask that the trustees and administration respond to the following questions: 

1) Does the College’s alternative investments portfolio include any investments in fossil fuels, for-profit prisons, or for-profit medical care? So far as we are aware, there is no statement of ethics or principles regarding these types of investments, despite ample evidence of the social damage they frequently cause.

2) Why is the College bent on imposing various austerity measures, including a subpar health care plan for its employees, if its endowment is evidently at a record high? For its size, after all, Oberlin is now an incredibly wealthy school.

3) How, exactly, did the administration and trustees calculate the $2.5 million annual savings they claimed would result from union busting and outsourcing the United Auto Workers dining and custodial staff?

4) Have there been conflicts of interest, and what are the exact terms by which the College has funneled around $180 million into trustee-controlled investment vehicles since 2008?

5) How much has Oberlin actually paid out in total costs (including fees) for its alternative investments annually since the 2008 financial crisis?

6) Have donor-designated funds ever been reassigned and, if so, under what circumstances?

7) Has the endowment received any significant — that is, greater than $1,500 — non-alumni contributions, specifically any from contractors, outsourcers, or any affiliated parties?

8) How much have Oberlin’s interest rate swaps cost the College since 2008?

9) What is the real — not internal — rate of return on Oberlin’s investments, particularly since 2008? We are concerned that Canavan’s own graphic evidently shows the endowment underperformed the S&P 500 by 29 percent in that period.

Without answers to these questions, it is hard to believe that Canavan’s notion of “transparency” amounts to anything more than a smokescreen. 



Kelly Grotke, OC ’89

Les Leopold, OC ’69 

Cassandra Ogren, OC ’02

Susan Phillips, OC ’76 

Kris Raab, OC ’89 

Members of the 1833 Just Transition Fund Board