Ma Ingalls Tries to Patch a Hole.

Frank Rich, New York Times:

… Last month the president of Harvard, Drew Gilpin Faust, contributed a stirring essay to The Times regretting that educational institutions did not make stronger efforts to assert the fundamental values of pure intellectual inquiry while “the world indulged in a bubble of false prosperity and excessive materialism.” She rued the rise of business as the most popular undergraduate major, an implicit reference to the go-go atmosphere during the reign of her predecessor, Lawrence Summers, now President Obama’s chief economic adviser.

What went unsaid, of course, is that some of Harvard’s most prominent alumni of the pre-Faust era — Summers, Blankfein, Robert Rubin et al. — were major players during the last two bubbles. As coincidence would have it, the same edition of The Times that published Faust’s essay also included an article about how Harvard was scrounging for bucks by licensing a line of overpriced preppy clothing under the brand Harvard Yard. This sop to excessive materialism will be a scant recompense for the $11 billion Harvard’s endowment managers lost in their own bad gamble on interest-rate swaps…

Yes, in the blink of an eye Harvard University has gone from a pigsty under Lawrence Summers to The Little House on the Prairie under Drew Faust — complete with homespun tales about the evils of materialism.

If you buy that, you — like Summers with those interest-rate swaps — will buy anything.

A comment from a Harvard library worker at a rally to protest layoffs.

“So it’s a very bad situation. We feel like Harvard has plenty of money. When I came here 20 years ago they had $4.5 billion in their endowment. Now they have 29 billion. To me, that’s a staggering record of capital accumulation. And they made some risky investments that made the endowment skyrocket during the boom times – leveraged private equity, oil, timber, hedge funds, and of course these things, when the economy is doing great they do fantastic and the endowment doubled in just a few years. Predictably, in a downturn, those investments are going to take a hit. But they want us to pay for that. They want ordinary workers to pay for their investment strategies. They pay their top people – one guy got 6.4 million in a year for managing a Harvard endowment. There were several of them. It was reported in the Globe. He goes up from 3 million to 6 million. So why do they have to cut jobs?”

Provocative Thoughts About Universities…

… from the Epicurean Dealmaker.

Consider his comments in connection with this blogger’s recent estimate of forty percent losses in Harvard’s endowment.

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