Dear Harvard Management Company and Student-Faculty Advisory Committee on Social Responsibility,
We are writing to ask Harvard to discontinue any future investments in private equity funds of the company HEI Hotels and Resorts. In February, the Brown University President and Corporation decided that Brown University would no longer invest in HEI, citing “a persistent pattern of allegations involving the company’s treatment of workers and interference with their efforts to unionize” inconsistent with Brown’s standards of socially responsible investment. We believe that Harvard should hold its investments to the same ethical standards as other Ivy League universities and ask that the Harvard Management Company declare non-reinvestment in HEI this season.
As students at Harvard, we are expected to behave in a socially responsible manner. We may only hope that this university uses its own immense economic and political power to advance causes beneficial for the university’s reputation of social responsibility and justice in society.
Workers at HEI Hotels have been organizing around issues of low wages, poor benefits, workplace injuries, missing compensation and lacking breaks. HEI has also been accused of anti-union activities. The attached report details the unethical nature of HEI’s business plan and explains a history of intimidation of union activists, low wages, and poor benefits in HEI-managed hotels. We expect the ACSR to conduct its own investigation into HEI’s labor practices and corroborate the facts that we have collected.
Brown University’s President and Corporation decided in February 2011 not to reinvest in HEI Hotels and Resorts. The Brown ACCRIP (Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Policies) recommended that Brown “refrain from reinvesting in HEI until the Corporation is confident that HEI adheres to our high standards regarding respectful and humane treatment of workers, and that workers at HEI-operated hotels are able to seek union representation without fear of intimidation.” Students at other universities like Yale, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, Notre Dame, and the University of Chicago have also urged their universities to stop investing in HEI.
Many students also support non-reinvestment in HEI. The February 8, 2011 Crimson Staff editorial declared, “This should go without saying, but Harvard should advocate for workers’ rights in the companies it invests in. Unions play a valuable role in maintaining fair working standards for employees, and the allegations that HEI is hindering their presence within its hotels should call Harvard’s relations with the company into question.”
As members of the Student Labor Action Movement, we request that the Advisory Committee consider the following report and requests and vote to maintain Harvard’s standards of ethical investment.
Naimonu James, 2014; Sandra Korn, 2014; Neal Meyer, 2011; William Whitham, 2014; Madeline Zhu, 2014
The following Harvard student groups have also added their support to this letter:
Student Labor Action Movement
Environmental Action Committee
Progressive Jewish Alliance
Students for Choice