UO Divest sit-in wins the day, as Foundation’s Jay Namyet joins CO2 boycott

9/12/2016: The Emerald has the story here, and it’s on the UO Divest facebook page here. Back in April, Foundation CFO Jay Namyet was writing nastygrams like this to our students about their efforts to get the secretive UO Foundation to join the CO2 divestment movement:

Subject: RE: follow up meeting
Date: 2016/03/30 14:14
From: Jay Namyet <jnamyet@uofoundation.org>
To: [UO Divest undergraduate student]

[UO Divest undergraduate student],
No, indeed we did not. As I told you, based on your conduct, our dialogue was over. I hope in years to come you will appreciate a life’s lesson in this affair. That is what a university experience is all about.
Regards,
Jay

From: [UO Divest undergraduate student]
Sent: Wednesday, March 30, 2016 2:11 PM
To: Jay Namyet <jnamyet@uofoundation.org>
Subject: RE: follow up meeting

Hi Jay,
I know we didn’t end our last meeting on the best note, but we’d be happy to try and get a fresh start and meet again to discuss divestment sometime this term if you’re willing. Let me know.
Sincerely,
[UO Divest undergraduate student]

On 2015/04/09 18:30, Jay Namyet wrote:
Great, we are in agreement then, no more dialogue.
Sent from Outlook [1]

And

On 2015/04/09 10:05, Jay Namyet wrote:

[UO Divest undergraduate student],

When I asked you all why you were meeting with the president, the response I got was to learn his personal thoughts about this issue.

Turns out, not really.

As is indicated by [UO Divest undergraduate student] below in [pronoun redacted] email to the president’s office, and just as you three did with me this morning, this is about pressing your argument for divestment even though you have already received responses from all parties involved.

I offered an olive branch to you all last meeting and was the basis for today’s meeting. You all chose to ignore that and continue to beat the same drum of divestment.

I don’t appreciate being lied to about your intent of meeting with the president and I don’t appreciate your not honoring the reason for meeting today with me.

As a result, you have now lost the opportunity for further dialogue with me.

Jay

I’m mystified as to why Namyet didn’t want the students to talk to the President of their university, but whatever.

After a Johnson Hall sit-in, a free-speech controversy that sucked in FIRE, and some outraged letters from UO donors he and Weinhold came back to the table, and are now true believers:

Investment Management Statement

The University of Oregon Foundation is an independent, non-profit organization that exists for the sole purpose of supporting the academic mission of the university. We carry out our mission through prudent investment management, maximizing the value of private gifts for the benefit of the university and honoring donor intent.
Our strategy is to invest in a diverse set of smart, longer-term investments. This approach has created a well-diversified, progressive portfolio whose performance ranks in the top 10 percent nationally of all university endowments. Our philosophy and approach are guided by making prudent, socially and environmentally responsible investments that advance the financial objectives needed to support the university’s academic mission.
We are proud to lead the Pac-12 in adopting the first ever environmental, social and governance considerations to help inform our investment decisions. We believe that green energy initiatives, such as solar and wind power, sustainable forestry, and organic farming will steadily replace investments in carbon-based fuel sources, and we do not have any investments in coal. We intend to let those carbon-based investments –which were initiated many years ago– expire without renewal, ending our investment in carbon-based fuel sources.
Our responsibility is to balance financial support for today’s students, faculty and staff, with those of future generations at the university. We are currently providing more than $45 million each year in direct student, academic and operational funding to support the academic growth of our university and students. We are pleased that with our approach, we continue to successfully deliver on that mission.
Jay Namyet
Chief Investment Officer

 

4/22/2016:  Students arrange marriage of Duck & CO2, mock secretive UO Foundation

Those transparent beavers up at the OSU Foundation have set up a committee of trustees to study divestment and other proposals from the OSU community. Meanwhile the secretive UO Foundation has been calling our students liars, telling them “you have now lost the opportunity for further dialogue”, and “I hope in years to come you will appreciate a life’s lesson in this affair.”

Why so nasty? The word down at the faculty club is that the Foundation’s got some money stuck in a disastrous tar-sands private equity deal, and can’t find a buyer at a price that won’t make them look ridiculous. Bit late for that, really.

I’ll go out on a limb and predict that UO Foundation CEO Paul Weinhold and CIO Jay Namyet will soon throw our students a bone by offering to meet with them about alternative energy investments. If they follow through, it means that instead of making a clean break with dirty oil and coal, the Foundation’s officers will start using our endowment to buy themselves some expensive green-washing, presumably like these under-performers:

Red for the good old S&P, Black for coal and tar-sands, Green for wind and solar:

Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 9.24.07 AM

But meanwhile, since Weinhold and Namyet won’t talk, our students have taken the logical next step – A shotgun wedding:

Divest Wedding #3

Lovely bride, but she really should look into the groom’s finances. Oh, right, the secretive UO Foundation is still delaying release of its required annual reports to the IRS and Oregon DOJ. And I’d advise a pre-nup covering any potential defamation lawsuits from the Foundation – they’ve got a nasty history of that sort of thing.

The wedding made the front page of the RG:

The bride was lovely in a white dress, although she wore a three-smoke-stack hat and represented the coal industry’s betrothal to the University of Oregon Foundation, which as groom, was represented — of course — by a duck.

She carried a $100 bill bouquet. The mock wedding Thursday at the EMU Amphitheater was staged by Divest UO and other climate action groups protesting the UO Foundation’s refusal to drop its fossil fuel company holdings.

UO Foundation CEO Paul Weinhold has said the foundation doesn’t make investment decisions based on social causes and strives to get the best return on its dollar. At the mock wedding, the “foundation” best man said: “This union is about maximizing returns in a beautiful way,” according to the Daily Emerald student newspaper.

Part of the speech was a parody of recent communications between Divest UO students and UO Foundation Chief Investment Officer Jay Namyet.

An earlier meeting between the two ended unhappily, according to an email chain posted on the uomatters.com blog. [below the break.] Students pressed for divestment, while the foundation offered to let the students help research alternative investments, according to the e-mails.

Subsequently, after students took their divestment case to the UO administration, Namyet cut off communications with them, writing, “you have now lost the opportunity for further dialogue with me.”

The Oregonian’s Andrew Theen also had some fun with this, and brings up the UO Divest Campaign’s fiendishly clever alternative to UO’s current $2B fundraising drive:

Student organizers first started discussing a disinvestment plan two years ago. The UO’s Faculty Senate unanimously supported the student’s proposal in 2015.

Student groups are asking private donors to give their money to a nationwide divest fund. It’s a tax deductible donation, and the money will go to the UO Foundation if its organizers decide to divest by the end of 2017. Jung said the donations would go to the school’s general scholarship fund.

As of Thursday, the foundation wasn’t changing its stance.

More on the “Divest Fund“. Make a donation to the Divest Fund for UO scholarships, and they will hold it in escrow until the end of 2017. If the UO Foundation’s Jay Namyet has divested by then, UO gets the money. If not, it is divided among those universities that have divested. Someone knows their game theory.

I tried it out, and they even sent a receipt for my taxes.

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 5.43.48 PM

4/4/2014: UO Foundation CIO Jay Namyet calls CO2 divestment undergrads liars, thinks he’s teaching them a valuable life lesson

Here’s how the UO Foundation treats our students. The emails are posted with permission, although I’ve redacted all student names anyway.

In a nutshell, in April 2015 the UO Divest students met with UO Foundation Chief Investment Officer Jay Namyet. He did not seem willing to seriously consider their arguments for divestment, so they set up a meeting with former Interim UO President (now Provost) Scott Coltrane. Someone in Coltrane’s office sent Namyet the students’ request for a meeting with Coltrane. Namyet forwarded it to the students and called them liars, for reasons that make no sense to me.

Our students then sent Mr. Namyet a considerably more adult reply than he had given them, explaining their reasons for wanting to meet with Coltrane and for divestment. Namyet’s response was “Great, we are in agreement then, no more dialogue.”

This February the students adopted a new strategy, consisting of a Johnson Hall sit-in and a banner outside Johnson Hall calling for divestment. In March they sent Mr. Namyet a very polite email, asking if he would be willing to meet again. Here’s his response, followed by all the emails I was given, in reverse chronological order:

Subject: RE: follow up meeting
Date: 2016/03/30 14:14
From: Jay Namyet <jnamyet@uofoundation.org>
To: [UO Divest undergraduate student]

[UO Divest undergraduate student],
No, indeed we did not. As I told you, based on your conduct, our dialogue was over. I hope in years to come you will appreciate a life’s lesson in this affair. That is what a university experience is all about.
Regards,
Jay

From: [UO Divest undergraduate student]
Sent: Wednesday, March 30, 2016 2:11 PM
To: Jay Namyet <jnamyet@uofoundation.org>
Subject: RE: follow up meeting

Hi Jay,
I know we didn’t end our last meeting on the best note, but we’d be happy to try and get a fresh start and meet again to discuss divestment sometime this term if you’re willing. Let me know.
Sincerely,
[UO Divest undergraduate student]

On 2015/04/09 18:30, Jay Namyet wrote:
Great, we are in agreement then, no more dialogue.
Sent from Outlook [1]

On Thu, Apr 9, 2015 at 6:06 PM -0700, [UO Divest undergraduate student] wrote:

Jay,

Yes we were planning on getting his personal opinion on the issue, because as of our meeting with you we weren’t aware that he had come out against it, although we had a strong feeling that he would not publicly come out in support of divestment because of the pressure he’s under and because he had yet to contact us or make any statement about it following the senate vote. Yes, if he is opposed to it we will express the reasons that we feel like it is proper to support divestment, in the same way we did when we presented our case to the senate, and the sam way we did to you. I don’t see how this is news since we are representing the “UO divestment campaign”, and all parties involved know what our overall goal is.

You may feel that you offered an olive branch to us by meeting with us to discuss ‘solutions’, but the only idea you offered was for us to maybe help search for some environmentally friendly investments if they help maximize returns. You offered no solution on how to move
away from fossil fuel investments as they destroy at an accelerating rate the planet and the lives of millions of people, and you refused to even engage in any phrase involving the word ‘divestment’.

We offered to have a flexible time table and you didn’t want to hear it. We offered to facilitate conversation between the UO foundation and other University foundations that have divested and you didn’t want to hear it. We even asked if you would be willing to commit to staying out of fossil fuels AFTER you eventually decide to to sell your current investments and you wouldn’t even accept that. So you saying that that we were the
one’s not coming up with compromises and that we ‘lied about our intentions’ is astounding.

You told us multiple times during our meetings that ‘the U of O foundation only has an obligation to maximize returns for donors’, and cannot bend this policy for ANY social cause. Therefore you did not want to give considerations to the interests of UO students, faculty, the Eugene community, and indeed the interest of humanity, even after you acknowledged the extreme threat that climate change posses to the future of civilization and the moral outrage of poor people on the other side of the world having their homes destroyed and children killed in ever stronger typhoons while oil, gas, coal companies profit from the inaction fueling this destruction. As you said this I wondered if your tone might have change if you had to look into the eyes of any of the tens of millions of climate refugees that are predicted to be displaced by mid-century. As it is you have not taken to heart their interests, and the foundation’s inaction and total refusal to even
discuss with us real solution that will put pressure on the corporations that displace them, and fuel extreme weather which kills countless others, reflects this. However I’m sure many of the few dozen wealthy donors and people above you will be pleased with the precedent of not taking a principled stand on any social cause, no matter how valid the grievance, or how dire the consequence of collective inaction, as taking such a stand may set the dangerous precedent of doing the right thing while marginally impacting returns.

During the civil right’s movement MLK articulated that it was not the KKK or explicit racists that were the greatest barrier to progress. Rather, it was otherwise good people who acknowledged the injustices of the era but choose not to act meaningfully out of fear that it would impact their privileged position. This was the position of the University in the 80’s during apartheid divestment, and it is the position that you articulated for the foundation again today. I may have been naive, but I really did believe when I choose to come to the UO that it was an institution committed to social and environmental justice, but these meetings have shown me that this is not the the commitment of the foundation.

Needless to say we do not want “the opportunity” of speaking with you again so long as the foundation’s position is one that avoids taking a principled stand against any injustice because doing so may marginally effect the interests of those benefiting from the status quo and the subsequent destruction which follows that inaction.

[UO Divest undergraduate student]

On 2015/04/09 10:05, Jay Namyet wrote:

[UO Divest undergraduate student],

When I asked you all why you were meeting with the president, the response I got was to learn his personal thoughts about this issue.

Turns out, not really.

As is indicated by [UO Divest undergraduate student] below in [pronoun redacted] email to the president’s office, and just as you three did with me this morning, this is about pressing your argument for divestment even though you have already received responses from all parties involved.

I offered an olive branch to you all last meeting and was the basis for today’s meeting. You all chose to ignore that and continue to beat the same drum of divestment.

I don’t appreciate being lied to about your intent of meeting with the president and I don’t appreciate your not honoring the reason for meeting today with me.

As a result, you have now lost the opportunity for further dialogue with me.

Jay

[The email from a Divestment student to the UO President’s office, which was appended by Mr. Namyet to his email above is below. I’m not sure who in Interim President Coltrane’s office forwarded Mr. Namyet this student’s email to Coltrane, which he then used, thinking it would support his accusation of mendacity. Randy Geller and Doug Park would probably call this a FERPA violation, though other words come to mind.]

Hello,

We would like to meet with the President to:

a) Educate the President about our campaign and the reasons for divestment

b) Review the statements of support we have received for divestment from the campus community, including a campus wide student vote in support and a unanimous statement of support from the University of Oregon Senate.

c) Review our requests of the UO Foundation

d) Ask the President to support students in these requests of the Foundation

e) Set a process and timeline for the President to make a decision to support or not support divestment

We would like to bring 3-5 persons to the meeting.

Thank you,

[UO Divest undergraduate student]

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21 Responses to UO Divest sit-in wins the day, as Foundation’s Jay Namyet joins CO2 boycott

  1. Publius says:

    I think all of this is part of a long-term strategy to transform the image of the University of Oregon, starting with killing off any past associations of the University and its students with anything reeking of social responsibility or engagement with the real world. Any hint of social responsible investing, then, must be nipped in the bud. Instead, the University’s long-term strategy is now marketing itself to dimwitted, physically-fit Californians whose ideal University is a mindless health spa. The perfect agent of this is our so-called “board”, consisting of former track stars, B-list media figures, sports marketers, timber executives, and passive law professors, all led by a Ben Carson supporter.

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    • Dog says:

      What, we have a long term strategy? Where did that come from?
      I thought we just lived from biennium to biennium …

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      Rating: +7 (from 7 votes)
  2. Anas clypeata says:

    At least there are some grown-ups at this university. Keep pushing, students. In the meantime, the foundation will keep on riding its investments in coal companies down to zero.

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  3. HeSoundsQuackers says:

    Reads like a CIO tantrum. Childish. Not the sort of constitution one should have to interact with a vibrant socially active campus.

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    • uomatters says:

      Perhaps Namyet thinks he needs coal to diversify and reduce risk, a la Markowitz. Which is sort of funny, given that energy stocks are the classic pro-cyclical play. He’d do better investing our students scholarship funds in booze and fast-food stocks.

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  4. M says:

    If even a weak version of EMH holds, shouldn’t the marginal return to investing in fossil fuels be zero or near zero? The Foundation’s financial reliance on carbon seems to indicate that Namyet is just really bad at his job.

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  5. Anonymous says:

    I hope the faculty and students practice what they preach.

    No oil and gas stocks, etfs, mutual funds, etc.

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    Rating: +2 (from 2 votes)
  6. just different says:

    The real life lesson here is that standing up to a bully will get him to show his true colors and that he’s always right. The corollary life lesson will be that the university is going to back up this bully and his rightness.

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  7. Jay is a good man, even if this email exchange sounds to be at the tail end of what became two sides frustrated by each others inability to see the merits of the other side’s argument.

    The simple fact is that university divestment campaigns have no impact on the desired outcome (to reduce fossil fuel use in the world). Once those shares are on the public market, buying or selling them doesn’t impact the capital accounts of the fossil fuel companies. These university divestment campaigns are nice and showy and allow activist students to feel like they are doing something, when in reality, they aren’t. They would be much better off running campus campaigns to reduce the DEMAND for fossil fuels. How about focusing on leadership and campus operations for more LED lighting, biofuel vehicles, locally sourced foods in dorm cafeteria, energy efficient building renovations, car-pooling….that has more impact. You can be sure all investors will abandon declining growth stocks (check out coal companies this year).
    Chasing after UOF to change up a tiny portion of (probably indexed mutual fund) holdings in their relatively small overall portfolio ($1B is not a lot in the foundation/endowment space and not worth mentioning in global capital markets) isn’t meaningful.

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    • uomatters says:

      Perhaps it’s too much to expect the Foundation’s $400K a year CIO to maintain the same level of professionalism in his communications as do UO undergrads.

      The other issues you raise are discussed in the comments here: http://uomatters.com/2016/03/uo-bans-students-fossil-fuel-divestment-banner-from-a-bush.html#comments. Please post your thoughts there. One example:

      The theory of public goods covers this pretty well. There’s no hypocrisy here.

      Reducing CO2 emissions is almost certainly a non-rival non-excludable public good. As with any public good, voluntary efforts to provide it, such as walking back home for spring break to reduce emissions, will suffer from rational free-riding even among those who have a strong preference for the good. The normal solution to this market failure is collective action.

      Our students are engaged in that collective action by trying to limit the ability of fossil fuel producers to raise capital, therefore driving up their costs and reducing CO2 emissions. The fact that the students are personally using goods and services that emit CO2 at the same time they protest is entirely rational. They’ve got a limited amount of time and effort to devote to CO2 reduction, and they’ve decided that the payoff from devoting this time and effort to collective action to reduce CO2 exceeds the payoff from individual efforts.

      This is the same logic that drives countries to work for global agreements to limit CO2 at the same time that they are maintaining or even increasing their own emissions. These countries, and our students, are willing to adopt policies that will limit their own emissions (by increasing costs of airplane travel, for example) but only if others are also going to do so.

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      • I agree the exchange became a bit too blunt for my comfort too. But guessing there’s more than meets the email eye here as I know Jay is very reasonable and modest person. That he makes the salary he does is somewhat irrelevant (except perhaps to UOM – high salaries earned by others does seem to be a particular irritant in this forum). In the world of university CIO’s with his performance record, Jay is a real bargain. At least in his case, we can see the wealth creation for the UOF that justifies his salary and benefits us all.

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        • just different says:

          Could it be the case that his reasonableness and modesty are a function of how he perceives the rank of the person he’s dealing with? Imagine him behaving this way with Schill or Lillis.

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        • she/her/hers says:

          I’m sure Jay is a perfectly pleasant chap when he’s out on the golf course with his buddies who are trying to sell him private equities.

          But I think this bit of Namyet’s behavior is even dumber than when he complained they’d lied to him about talking to Coltrane: “… you refused to even engage in any phrase involving the word ‘divestment’.”

          And I thought the finance people were the ones complaining about politically correct language. What special word does he want the students to use when talking to him? Guys can be so sensitive.

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          • Lol says:

            Jay’s just throwing a tantrum because he was slightly inconvenienced and had to interact with someone who was temporarily poor. Every e-mail reads “I’m done talking with you, bye!”

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        • Fishwrapper says:

          No, there is not “more than meets the email eye” (whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean). We can only judge his reasonableness and modesty by his actions – in this case, the evidence he provides to support your claim of same are the words he typed to communicate with students. My hope is that in years to come he will appreciate a life’s lesson in this affair. That is what a university experience is all about (or so I’ve heard…)

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  8. Anonymous says:

    “You have now lost the opportunity for further dialogue with me.”

    What a line. I’m going to start using this on creepy guys at bars. and telemarketers.

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  9. If it quacks like a duck says:

    I do not know Namyet but there is nothing in the email exchange that would give me concern. Are types of students beating this drum the loudest the ones bringing sound investment analysis to Namyet’s table? Didn’t think so. I suspect he gave them (or at least tried) more of an education than they get elsewhere on campus. If they lied, they lied. If that’s true, I admire him for saying it without the protection afforded by tenure. If that’s not, that’s another story.

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    • uomatters says:

      Thanks for submitting this uninformed and pointless comment. You have now lost the opportunity for further dialogue with me.

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      Rating: +11 (from 23 votes)
  10. Pingback: Earth Week 2016: UO Marries Big Oil –

  11. justathought says:

    Many of these oil and gas firms are big investors in renewables.

    Seems counterproductive, no?

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