The Wall Street Journal runs a story on Trinity College’s headaches with donor intent. But the story also illustrates that Brandeis University’s attempt to access the Rose Museum as additional capital to offset the school’s damaged endowment is not an isolated incident. Other schools are not fixating on art but they are looking for assets:
Colleges posted average investment losses of 23% from July 1 to Nov. 30, and markets have fallen more since. Administrators are bracing for the sharpest drop in giving since 1975, when contributions fell 3.6%, the biggest drop in half a century. Already, institutions are laying off employees, calling off tenure searches and scrapping construction plans.
“Schools are scrambling to find assets they can turn into cash,” says Frederic Fransen, an Indiana adviser to big donors who helps them structure gift terms to maximize control. “If you’ve given something that the university doesn’t believe is part of its core mission, those are the first things to go.”
Tension over the responsibility to honor “donor intent” has always been a thorn in the side of college presidents. While schools appreciate the generosity, narrow restrictions on gifts made decades ago can tie their hands when times are tight. Amid the recession, many schools, including Harvard University, the nation’s wealthiest, are making appeals for gifts they can deploy where they see the greatest need, especially toward financial aid. Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education, which represents more than 1,600 colleges, says she expects more schools to seek leeway from donors of restricted gifts.
New Unrest on Campus as Donors Rebel (Wall Street Journal)