Harvard Will Not Reinvest in HEI Hospitality As HEI Hemorrhages University Investors

April 3, 2012

(Cambridge, MA) – Over the weekend, Harvard Management Company, which oversees Harvard University’s $32 billion endowment, announced that it would not reinvest in funds managed by HEI Hospitality. Harvard’s endowment has been one of HEI Hospitality’s key sources of funding, having invested a total of at least $70 million in HEI’s hospitality funds.

Harvard is the latest Ivy League school to join a growing trend of universities across the country distancing themselves from the law-breaking private equity hotelier, HEI Hospitality. HEI investors Yale, Princeton, Vanderbilt and Brown universities have all publicly stated they will not reinvest in HEI. Swarthmore and Cornell universities, which do not currently invest in HEI, have also made similar statements. All told, universities which have decided not to reinvest in HEI account for a total of at least $285 million of investments in past HEI funds.

Also last week, workers at the HEI owned and operated Le Meridien Hotel in Cambridge, Massachusetts publicly joined other HEI workers across the country who are fighting against sweatshop hotel conditions in HEI hotels.

"I’m tired of working in fear. I’m tired of the disrespect from my boss. I’m tired of living paycheck to paycheck and all of the pain,” said Rosa de la Rosa, a 14-year housekeeper at the Le Meridien, Cambridge. “It’s time my voice is heard through the halls of HEI headquarters and any of its partners. My name is Rosa de la Rosa and I am going to fight for a better future for my family.”

“We are very happy to hear of Harvard’s announcement,” said Heather Nichols, a front desk associate at the Le Meridien, Cambridge.

"HEI management needs to know that mistreating workers and breaking the law is not a responsible way to profit.”

Anti-HEI Sentiment Continues to Grow

Students on campuses nationwide have urged their administrations to end investments in HEI by signing petitions, organizing rallies and demonstrations, convincing faculty and members of the Board of Trustees, participating in hunger strikes, collaborating with the larger Occupy movement, among many other efforts. Students led campus campaigns at all the universities which have announced decisions not to reinvest in HEI.

“Any university considering partnering with HEI should realize that investment comes with a risk of labor dispute and campus protest,” said Devi K. Lockwood, a Harvard sophomore. “There’s so much pressure nationwide – Harvard, Yale, Vanderbilt, Princeton and Brown have all ended their future investments – that it seems nonsensical for anyone to invest in HEI.”
Efforts at other university campuses such as the University of Michigan, University of Notre Dame and the University of Chicago are escalating. Earlier last week, a forum was held at UND to discuss how the University has failed to justify its investment in HEI through Catholic Social Principles.

"Harvard’s decision is commendable, but this by no means demonstrates that students across the country are going to let their administrations off the hook,” said Michael Gillman, University of Notre Dame law student. “There is nothing responsible or ethical in Notre Dame’s investment in HEI. All the administration has to do is listen to the workers’ stories to make the right decision. If our peer institutions aren’t investing in HEI, why are we?”

HEI Hospitality is expected to begin raising funding later this year for its fourth hospitality fund without addressing the labor problems which have prompted campus protests.

HEI Embroiled in Growing Number of Labor Violations

HEI has now settled or been held liable for 32 wage and hour administrative complaints at the HEI-operated Embassy Suites Irvine for a total of $99,999. Complaints have also been filed at the HEI-owned W Hollywood and Hilton Long Beach hotels. In addition, a former room attendant at the Embassy Suites Irvine recently won a $70,000 settlement in a worker’s compensation case against the hotel.

HEI has also settled multiple charges with the National Labor Relations Board. Complaints issued to HEI by the Office of General Counsel of the NLRB alleged, among other things, that HEI illegally interrogated employees about union activities and threatened employees with losing their employment if they continued to participate in such activities.

The University – HEI Connection

HEI receives over 98% of its funding from some of the nation’s most esteemed universities, including Yale, Harvard, Princeton, University of Chicago, University of Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, Dartmouth and the University of Michigan.

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