Count Harvard University’s Drew Faust as one higher-education leader who recognizes that the debate over how wealthy universities use their endowments is an issue unlikely to fade away.
Yesterday, she chose one of the university’s most ceremonial of occasions and locations, the graduation ceremony at Harvard Yard, to introduce a very visible defense.
“In recent months, Harvard’s $35-billion endowment has become something of a target — publicly both envied and maligned,” said Ms. Faust in her speech.
“But it is poorly understood. Endowments represent a concrete embodiment of our accountability to the past and to the future,” she continued.
“They derive from our history and the dreams of those who have preceded us; they are in turn the vehicle that enables us to project our own dreams into the future.”
Harvard’s endowment provides “resources and the independence to support work that may not pay off in the short term,” she said, and that is valuable to society.
“In an era in which large and important financial organizations have been known to disappear over a weekend, universities are durable, proven institutions, here for the long haul. —Goldie Blumenstyk