Yves here. This article about Harvard Law School’s endowment applies just as well to other well-heeled professional schools. And in many respects, the ways these endowments operate reveals what “professionalism” has come to mean in America: fealty to monied interests.
By Peter A. LaVenia. Originally published at The Harvard Law Record
Harvard Law School is perhaps the most prestigious law school in the nation with countless (in)famous names attached to its faculty and alumni, an influence unmatched in the Obama regime, and a symbiotic relationship with the commanding heights of the corporate world. Harvard Law’s embrace of the growing business presence in higher education  parallels the emphasis the school places on corporate law and major firm recruiting; its current role is to produce the premiere legal guardians of international corporate control and state power. With an endowment of $1.7 billion, Harvard Law has been compensated handsomely for its role defending corporate capitalism; indeed considered as part of Harvard University’s sprawling $36.4 billion endowment empire  it might be seen more as a giant hedge fudge masquerading as a teaching institution rather than the reverse. The institution socializes its student body to choose big law over the public interest through crushing student debt loads, courses that focus almost exclusively on the legal problems of the wealthy, and its attachment to elite foundations and projects.
Still, Harvard Law has the potential to play a progressive role in eliminating law school debt, promoting expanded legal services for the poor and under-represented, and investing in socially conscious businesses. Yet the endowment is invested in troubling industries and does little to eliminate student debt  or begin to correct a broken legal system . A demand for an end to Harvard Law-as-hedge-fund and corporate shill means envisioning what could be done with the vast resources available to the law school, including its students and faculty. The will to “shake up” Harvard Law School must combine with the knowledge that the administration could enact sweeping reforms to positively impact the student body, the under-represented working class and American democracy, and could do so under the current level of its endowment quite easily. Three demands should be raised: 1. An immediate end to all tuition for HLS students; 2. The establishment of community public interest lawyers paid for by Harvard in cities across the United States; 3. Investment of Harvard Law’s endowment in socially responsible businesses. How this is possible requires examining the structure of the endowment and operating revenue in order to show the ease with which a determined administration could make the changes.
As one of the thirteen major academic units within Harvard University, the Law School pools its funds with the rest of Harvard’s $36.4 billion (FY 2014) endowment  ; these funds are overseen by the Harvard Management Company , a wholly owned subsidiary of Harvard charged with supervising the university’s endowment and assets. While one might assume the majority of Harvard Law’s operating revenue would come from the endowment, this is not true – the majority is primarily from tuition, with a higher percentage (46%) used than any other unit at Harvard, versus 33% of operating revenue from the endowment . In fact, tuition is currently $54,850 (2014-15) and although 80% of Harvard Law students receive some form of financial assistance, only 12% of the school’s annual grant budget covers the cost of attendance . High tuition and lack of real financial aid reform has lead to the staggering $140,616 median debt load of law school students .
Harvard Law seemingly uses tuition to fund such a high percentage of its operating revenue so as to allow the majority of its endowment to continue to be invested at high rates of return. If it so chose, the tuition for its 1800 students could vanish and it would only cost the school $92.23 million a year, merely 5% of the $1.7 billion endowment. This should be demanded for all students regardless of family income and wealth – there would be no need to split the student body on this point, and could be a cross-class rallying cry. It would replace the inadequate financial aid that still leaves students burdened with debt and likely to accept big firm offers. Graduates interested in choosing a career in the public interest would no longer wrestle with debt loads, and the inadequacy of Harvard Law’s current program of eliminating debt for its graduates only if they choose low-income legal jobs as a career soon after their arrival at the school would no longer be necessary. We need look no further at the potential for this than the program Harvard Law had to fund the 3L year for students choosing public interest law from 2008-2009 called The Public Service Initiative; funding was cut because the administration believed too many 1L students wanted to take advantage of it . Perhaps afraid of the ramifications – since 110 1L’s signed up for program when it was available—both in being forced to spend $5.7 million of the endowment annually that would not be invested, and the loss of lawyers from prestige jobs to the public service, the program was transformed into the Public Service Venture Fund  (PSVF) and the Low Income Protection Plan  (LIPP). The LIPP aids “low income” graduates by reducing the amount of their loan repayment; the PSVF provides $1 million annual in seed money to start non-profit firms and subsidize Harvard Law alumni working at firms doing public interest law. Unlike the Public Service Initiative, the LIPP ensures HLS will likely receive at least some repayment from alumni, a far more attractive proposition for an investor than simply absolving debt. Neither cuts to the heart of the dilemma: that Harvard Law could end tuition, should do so, and in doing so would hardly affect school’s operating budget, likely encouraging more now debt-free students to enter public interest law.
The second demand: creation of community public interest lawyers and firms across the nation, could be funded entirely by ongoing grants from Harvard Law’s endowment. With the Public Service Venture Fund the administration committed a paltry $1 million a year for seed money to alumni interested in non-profit work. Instead, why not demand that HLS establish firms of 10 community lawyers in 10 separate cities across the United States, with a base salary of $50,000 a year? At a total cost of $5 million annually, these community lawyers could work with the poor and under-represented, challenge corporate and government wrongdoing, and become an anchor against growing legal inequality in the United States. Harvard Law would cut at the heart of the argument that there are too few public interest legal jobs available by creating 100 of them. A school with a $1.7 billion endowment, recently able to raise $476 million for capital improvements , should have no problem finding the funds to endow such a program in perpetuity. If even some of the major law schools followed suit, there might be a flood of new public interest jobs available for graduates within a few years, and Harvard could reap the credit of being the inspiration.
Harvard Law’s commingles its endowment with Harvard University’s, primarily into ethically questionable businesses . These investments include petrochemical corporations engaged in dangerous hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, banks cited for refusing to invest in underprivileged neighborhoods, large hedge funds, and a myriad of businesses not connected to the betterment of society or the legal profession (the full endowment portfolio and most egregious offenders will be listed in the appendix). Harvard Management Corporation’s directors are paid salaries akin to their Wall Street colleagues, far higher than one would expect if the school were primarily interested in education rather than the art of making money; compensation for the top five executives in Fiscal Year 2012 was $29.5 million . In short, Harvard Law, as a premiere provider of legal aid to questionable corporations worldwide, through its faculty and graduates, uses its endowment to further aid these corporations and expand elite power.
There is a tendency in Harvard’s investment choices towards very large corporations with few, if any examples of socially conscious businesses. Even though the most egregious offenders listed in the appendix are a short sample, anyone willing to examine the complete list provided will find familiar corporate names either as direct investments or through larger investment funds. Not only is Harvard Law entangled with the larger corporate world, it is choosing to do business with some of the most troublesome entities in that sphere. Addressing the problem of corporate control at Harvard Law will require divestment from these types of businesses and placement of funds in the hands of socially responsible entities. While Harvard has take some steps to invest in those types of businesses, without full discussion of possible divestment we can only conclude that Harvard Law is choosing to use its endowment to buttress the corporate world its faculty and students are trained to serve.
Investment in socially responsible businesses is the third pillar of major reform against the corporate culture at Harvard Law. Confronting the administration with divestment demands has proved difficult in the recent past, as students from across the University called – unsuccessfully – for Harvard to sell its stock in corporations contributing to the climate crisis. Yet a successful drive to move Harvard Law’s $1.7 billion into socially responsible investments would likely create the impetus to do the same with rest of the University’s funds, and impact the culture of the Law School in a profoundly anti-corporate direction. As a first step (in what is likely to be a multi-step process) Harvard Law should pull its funds from the most egregious offenders (as listed in the appendix), with an aim toward public discussion and debate in which socially responsible businesses the Law School should invest.
None of the three main pillars of change will be easy to accomplish, but they constitute the basis of a platform to rally large numbers of students, alumni, faculty and staff around. Transforming Harvard Law from a mainstay of corporate control and elite rule will require changing the culture and the possibility graduates might have to enter public interest law without debt, to say nothing of major encouragement from the administration. Using the ample endowment at Harvard Law to do so should be at the core of student demands for serious structural reform. Harvard has long been a model for the nation’s law schools and legal profession. A successful campaign to shift the dynamic of the school would ripple across other top law schools until it engulfed the rest.
Click here to view an appendix containing HLS’s full investment portfolio, including a list of the worst offenders.
 Nicolaus Mills, “The Corporatization of Higher Education,” Dissent, Fall 2012. www.dissentmagazine.org/article/the-corporatization-of-higher-education
 Ron Unz, “Paying Tuition To A Giant Hedge Fund,” The American Conservative, December 4, 2012. http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/paying-tuition-to-a-giant-hedge-fund/; Harvard University Financial Report: Fiscal Year 2014. http://www.hmc.harvard.edu/docs/Final_Annual_Report_2014.pdf
 80% of Harvard Law students incur debt, and 2012 graduates left with an average debt of $124,312. http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-law-schools/grad-debt-rankings/page+3
 Owen Bowcott, “ABA President To Tackle ‘Broken US Legal System,’” The Guardian, October 8, 2013. http://www.theguardian.com/law/2013/oct/08/aba-president-tackles-broken-us-legal-system?INTCMP=SRC
 Nikita Kansra & Weinstock, Samuel Y. “Harvard Endowment Grows To $32.7 Billion.” The Harvard Crimson, September 24, 2013. http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2013/9/24/endowment-growth-hmc/; Harvard University Financial Report (FY 2014), pp.1
 Harvard University Financial Report, pp. 5
 “Why Huge Salaries Don’t Necessarily Make Law School Grads Rich,” Bloomberg Businessweek, Oct. 22, 2014. http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-10-22/law-school-grads-make-good-salaries-but-have-high-debt-and-few-jobs
 110 1L’s signed up for the PSI in 2009, nearly 50% more than Dean Minow had expected. See: Elie Mystal, “The Harvard Law Financial Aid Situation,” Above The Law, http://abovethelaw.com/2009/12/the-harvard-law-financial-aid-situation-with-emails/
 While Dean, Elena Kagan was able to raise $476 million for HLS to aid in hiring professors, campus construction and financial aid; there is no reason a continuing program of gift-giving should not focus instead on providing aid for students who wish to enter the public service debt free. See: Sharon Theimer, “Kagan: Harvard Law’s $476 Million Dean,” The Boston Globe, July 7, 2010. http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2010/07/07/kagan_harvard_laws_476_million_dean/
 Not all of Harvard University’s nearly $33 billion is invested into stocks and hedge funds; that level fluctuates around $1 billion, while much of the rest has been put into illiquid holdings such as real estate.
 “Harvard Endowment Managers’ Pay Reported,” Harvard Magazine, May 15, 2013. http://harvardmagazine.com/2013/05/harvard-endowment-administrator-pay-disclosed
I’d like to take your ideas and broaden the discussion beyond law school debt. Take medicine, for example, and in this case it’s not rich medical schools alone you’d have to tap. To me, if an ideal health care system were designed, it would include free medical education. Just like huge law school debt encourages newly minted lawyers to pursue careers in corporate law, so too high medical school debt encourages newly minted doctors to pursue residencies in lucrative specialty areas rather than in primary care, where the earning potential is much lower. We need physicians to serve the poor, the working poor, primary care.
This post is an excellent start, in that a targeted campaign to get Harvard Law School to change its ways just might work. But why stop there? Pie in the sky maybe. But that’s a sad fact of our society where some of the most important professions are neglecting the needs of real people whether it’s the public at large or even an empty or sociopathic career path for its own graduates. Or, take universities that exploit would-be professors, subjecting huge numbers of good Ph.D’s to a lifetime of substandard pay without benefits, because money has become the new God of educational institutions.
Sorry if I took this post off the rails… But, Harvard, you likely can set the path for many professions here! Social responsibility. Set the pace across the board. I’d love to see moral reasoning, for example, as another aspect of choosing who gets admitted.
this is all very interesting, but i think there is one small detail missing. harvard’s current behavior is the result of decades of conscious policy. what exactly will motivate harvard to take such a dramatically divergent course?
if wishes were horses then beggars would ride.
‘Harvard Law School is perhaps the most prestigious law school in the nation with … an influence unmatched in the Obama regime.’
Live inside a bubble much? Harvard Law grad B. H. Obama has distinguished himself by amassing the presidential record for executive drone murders, refusing to prosecute perpetrators of illegal torture and illegal domestic spying, and apparently intending to govern by ‘executive memo’ during the last two years of his term.
This is ‘prestigious’? HA HA HA HA! No wonder America’s imperial decline is so obviously accelerating. We’d be better governed by graduates of dog grooming and cosmetology schools, rather than these privileged, narcissistic toffs trained in the arts of chicanery and subterfuge.
These are largely Eigenschools. People go in as vectors in n-dimensional space with all the coordinate attributes you described in a form of a nascent and promising potential for aggressive self-enrichment then they get multiplied by the School Matrix (SC), and come out pointing in the same direction as they went in but multiplied by a scalar. the equation is SC*p = L*p where p = eigenperson (i.e. the student), SC = School Matrix and the lamda factor = L = Looting. The instruction provided by the projection matrix SC is simply a multiplication of the eigenperson vector by the scalar L.
Some people, admittedly, don’t get multiplied fully by L because they’re not necessarily Eigenpeople, they may have Gnostic doubts about their vector coordinates and feel bouts of inner spiritual turmoil that steer then off course. We all of course have to give Yves credit (no pun intended, since we know we can just print up the “cred” and give it to her rather than lending her credibility).
This is why I realized just two days ago that what Wall Street got was as Eigenbailout back in ’09. They didn’t do anything differently, They just went in as a vector pointing in certain direction and came out of the bailout Matrix with their directional vector unchanged but multiplied by a scalar L = Loot.
That’s because they’re run by Eigenpeople who simply look for Projection Matrices that magnify their direction by scalars.
That’s what’s going on. Eigenpeople, Projection Matrices (“schools” and “govermint”) and scalars lambda = L = Looting. The education is the Lambda scalar.
All this is explained by simple linear algebra. It’s not as complicated as it sounds, but admittedly the German words make it sound like it’s hard to understand. It’s not really that bad when it’s translated into common sense.
What do you learn at Eigenschulen? Eigenvalues!
Young B. H. Obama, receiving an elite education at Harvard Law that he apparently didn’t pay a penny for, concluded logically enough that ‘If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.’
For him, American exceptionalism is an Eigenvalue derived from personal exceptionalism. Some of us were born to rule.
In the real world, eigenvalues may describe the dimensions of an uncertainty region. However in the delusional fantasy world of the neoliberal consensus, there is no uncertainty, it has been banished! They make their own rules, their own facts, they are infallible. Might there be a singularity lurking in the weeds?
I’m not sure what I find more amusing: the fact that craazy* took the time to construct a long-form joke using an extended linear algebra metaphor in a reply to a comment, or the fact that the original commenter not only got the joke but was able to add a topical riff of his own.
File it away for the “You know you’re reading Naked Capitalism when…” series.
…,i.e., the ‘magi-matics’ of cronyism.
Are you serious?? You entertain the possibity that one of the cornerstones of the oligarchy would consider aiding the dismantling of its power? Huh? It’s interesting to see that your scheme is possible but it’s like expecting the U.S. military to argue for dismantling its war planning and give up its absurd and corrupt procurement practices.
RE: Harvard Law School ….
The witer of this article is forgetting one other Harvard faculty: Harvard Business School.
These reforms would be to create what Marx called “the pest of lawyers” to bedevil Harvard Business School and its pest of corporate royalty forever after; it will never happen!
In my intro I specifically mention professional schools.
Whether you like it or not, MBA programs do represent the professionalization of management. See Peter Drucker on this topic. The fact that their standards of professionalism are not high relative to older professions like the law (e.g., exams independent of the school to establish minimum levels of competency, ongoing education requirements) is another matter entirely.
The LSAT is a fucking joke. If you do crossword type games well, or puzzles well, then it is your test. On the other hand, if you want to know a person’s basic level of literacy and or general achievement, forget about it. One of my pet peeves about young lawyers is a total lack of basic science skills. And we have to make lots of science based decisions.
Much as we might want to, we cannot bring back the 60’s, which is what this article is about. The 60’s are dead and gone and so are the circumstances that brought it about and the people who made it happen.
We the People need to respond to CURRENT conditions, as does any institution like Harvard.
The first step is to find out what the current conditions are, and like any other Ivory Tower, Harvard is usually out of touch and removed from daily life.
The biggest wake-up call Harvard got in the recent past was Larry Summer’s screwing around. They did respond to that very adequately. And then there was the labor unrest from grad students. I am not up on how that ended, in tragedy, farce, or a real solution…
If Harvard would address the health, economics and well-being of its students and staff and local community, that would be a great start. Student debt, urban blight and wage stagnation: that’s where the friction is and the fundamentals. After those issues, a “progressive role…promoting expanded legal services for the poor and under-represented, and investing in socially conscious businesses” are all worthy and necessary little hobby projects.
But perhaps even more, Harvard must critically hold this current Obama administration up to the light of legal examination. The crimes of omission and commission, not just in the Justice Department, but in every area, must be called out for what they are. The War Crimes issue must be addressed, before the outside world does it for us. The economic crimes as well. Domestically and internationally, we haven’t been in such deep doo-doo since…forever. The accumulating corrosion of the body politic must be scraped off and the structure rebuilt. Obama did nothing to right the wrongs of the Clinton, W, or Reagan regimes. Harvard must step up and do the analysis and criticism that will lead to correction. If not them, who? If not now, when?
Why else was Harvard fated to be?
“Why else was Harvard fated to be?” As an institution to serve power, regardless of how corrupt the status quo has become.
“Harvard is the oldest institution of higher education in the United States, established in 1636 by vote of the Great and General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. It was named after the College’s first benefactor, the young minister John Harvard of Charlestown, who upon his death in 1638 left his library and half his estate to the institution. A statue of John Harvard stands today in front of University Hall in Harvard Yard, and is perhaps the University’s best known landmark…” http://www.harvard.edu/history
“Established originally by the Massachusetts legislature and soon thereafter named for John Harvard (its first benefactor), Harvard is the United States’ oldest institution of higher learning, and the Harvard Corporation (formally, the President and Fellows of Harvard College) is its first chartered corporation. Although never formally affiliated with any denomination, the early College primarily trained Congregationalist and Unitarian clergy. Its curriculum and student body were gradually secularized during the 18th century, and by the 19th century Harvard had emerged as the central cultural establishment among Boston elites. Following the American Civil War, President Charles W. Eliot’s long tenure (1869–1909) transformed the college and affiliated professional schools into a modern research university; Harvard was a founding member of the Association of American Universities in 1900. James Bryant Conant led the university through the Great Depression and World War II and began to reform the curriculum and liberalize admissions after the war. The undergraduate college became coeducational after its 1977 merger with Radcliffe College… WIKIPEDIA
“As an institution to serve power, regardless of how corrupt the status quo has become.”
No, that’s not why Harvard was founded.
The bigger problem is that those who get into Harvard one way or another believe they are superior beings and as a result their decisions be it in Iraq, Syria, Russia (a total Harvard enterprise), Iran, Afghanistan, or Viet Nam cannot be wrong. The best way to fix this would be for them to randomize admissions. Simply set criteria for what they expect, GPA, extracurriculars, LSAT and set them as high as they wish and then those that make the cut get randomized. That means those who get rejected do not have an inferiority complex in the future leading them to give in when a Harvard professor spouts some blather that will send the country to ruin, and the Harvard person will realize that he is nothing unique and simply won the lottery and his opinion might not be the be all and end all. In addition, admission will be in proportion to race and no one can be discriminated against……make the cut and you make the lottery. I say this as an Ivy League (not Harvard) graduate. In my first year when I looked at the class around me it was obvious that the next 400 or even 4000 applicants who did not get in were probably just as talented as the few that did. It was just luck of the draw. Modesty and self doubt generally leads to safer and better outcomes. You look at the downside……and when it happens you are prepared…….Imagine how much blood has been spilled world wide, how many soldiers we have lost due to Harvard refined arrogance……remember Robert McNamara anyone? How about the recent stem cell case? and on and on. (and we cannot give the other Ivy’s a complete free pass but Harvard is far and away the worst although Yale with Wolfowitz, Bush, the Dulles boys et. al. is not far distant……..the business model is the same.)
I’m the author of the essay and just want to convey that I am under no illusions Harvard Law, or any other school with a large endowment, will do these things unless they are forced to do so. The article has, however, been published by the Harvard Law Record – a major progressive HLS student paper. Last year members of the paper had a major event on campus with the help of HLS alumnus Ralph Nader (his work helped inspire this article) on the corporatization of the law school and the law, and how progressives can fight back against this. This essay, if you will, is an attempt to show what a progressive law group can demand from HLS: free tuition, public interest lawyers, and socially responsible investment.
As Yves has pointed out professional schools have become part-and-parcel of the Wall St. nexus, investing their sizable endowments in the FIRE sector while charging students crushing amounts of tuition and attacking faculty benefits. Why don’t we reimagine what these schools, including public ones, can and should do with their endowments? Why shouldn’t we demand they invest in the community and make cheap or free schooling a priority? Many of these institutions now have more funds than the municipalities in which their campuses reside. Shouldn’t we ask how these schools can benefit the citizenry of these towns and areas? It’s worth envisioning a real platform of demands if we’re going to look to make real changes, which is what I have attempted to do here.
harvard has a model which it has employed successfully for many years. that model certainly does not include biting the hand that feeds it. harvard prepares its students to join the elite in law, business, government and academia. they, in turn, reward harvard by adding to its billions in endowment. expecting harvard to make any significant changes in this model is extraordinarily naive.
Ten years ago Harvard got rid of an investment genius, Jack Meyer, who had managed the Harvard endowment fantastically well for fifteen years. Some influential alumni were upset that he made so much money: $7 million dollars his last year, 2005.
Results over these past ten years were 8.9% annually, quite a step down from the 15.9% annual returns of the prior ten years under Meyer. Meyer had that unusual quality of being able to pick the right jockeys.
Um, the past ten years did include the crisis. And a whistleblower, former MIT professor Iris Mack, in 2002 was fired for trying to bring it to the attention of Meyer, and then the Harvard Corporation, that they didn’t understand tail risk in derivatives. From the Boston Globe in 2009:
“Back in 2002, a new employee of Harvard University’s endowment manager named Iris Mack wrote a letter to the school’s president, Lawrence Summers, that would ultimately get her fired.
So the underperformance resulted DIRECTLY from trades put on during Meyer’s watch.
So much for the caliber of reporting in Barron’s.
Don’t forget the pestilential Kennedy School of Government and Bill-Gates-funded Harvard School of Privatized Education, producers of fraudsters and confidence men and women.
Fancy the school with the schools funded by the non graduates or the barely graduated presidents.
Obama’s school will be special–the institute of war criminals or some such thing. Just the thing for getting the Peace ring, from the dynamite magnate Nobel. Nothing like the smell of nitroglycerine in the morning.
Harvard. Home of Reinhardt and Rogoff, Niall Ferguson, Greg Mankiw and rampant grade inflation where the average grade is an A-. I rest my case.