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Elite colleges refuse to hand over diversity info to outside group


Knight Foundation said it will try new ways in 2023 after 2022 results were lacking

A nonprofit that works on education and journalism issues told The College Fix it will try new strategies this year to obtain more information on the racial and gender makeup of endowment managers for wealth and elite universities after 2022 efforts for its “Diversity of Asset Managers” research fell short.

The Knight Foundation originally wanted to “assess the degree to which the endowments of the country’s wealthiest 25 private and 25 public colleges and universities hire asset management firms owned by women and racial or ethnic minorities.”

However, only 16 of the 50 universities have replied to the survey, and as a result, the foundation scrapped its initial plans and will try different approaches this year. The 34 who did not respond oversee over $270 billion in investments.

“We are working on additional strategies,” spokesperson Rebecca Dinar told The College Fix.

She said the foundation is “expecting some” new responses. The foundation scrapped the original survey over the summer.

The foundation published an interim report but said in June it was “committed to securing further participation and, when we do, plan to publish a final report.”

One of the non-responses included New York University, despite the Knight Foundation’s partnership with NYU’s business school for this survey.

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Spokesman John Beckman told The Fix on January 5 that “equity, diversity, and inclusion are important principles” at the school and “that extends to the management of the University’s endowment.”

Beckman said “as a matter of practice” NYU “does not share the investment managers with which it invests,” though it appreciated the “aims” of the foundation’s survey.

“Our Investment Office undertakes its own annual survey of the diversity of its investment managers, in line with NYU’s commitment to [DEI],” Beckman said. “According to the most recent survey results, 56% of NYU’s actively managed capital representing $2.2 billion is invested with managers wholly or partly owned by women and / or minorities.”

The Fix asked Dinar if she had any ideas on why many universities rejected the survey request, even though they are public proponents of diversity initiatives. Other non-respondents included Yale University and the University of Michigan. Neither school responded to multiple requests for comment from The Fix.

“You would have to ask them why. But we believe transparency is the first step to achieving the goals we share with these mission-driven institutions,” Dinar told The Fix. “And while there are many ways to consider how values of diversity, equity and inclusion can manifest in the management of an endowment, we believe the question of diverse ownership, while not the only factor, is an important one.”

The College Fix reached out to other universities who refused to provide info to Knight Foundation but they likewise did not respond to media inquiries.

The Fix contacted the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Notre Dame and Dartmouth College multiple times in the past month to ask about why they did not respond to the survey.

Editor’s note: The article has been updated with a longer quote from Rebecca Dinar.

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About the Author
Jeremy Hill -- Boyce College