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Which Figures Would You Use?

The D finally got around to reporting on the Friends of Eleazar Wheelock letter the other day, and in a display of the editorial bias for which the paper is known on campus, the piece quoted the College’s spokesman, Justin Anderson, as follows:

The College’s investments in trustee-related funds and companies have allowed the College to succeed financially, according to Anderson.

“Had we chosen to exclude these funds as an option for our investment staff simply because of a connection to an alumnus or trustee, our endowment returns would have been lower,” he said. “Overall, Dartmouth’s endowment has performed in the top-quartile for the 10-year period ending June 30, 2011 within three applicable universes of higher education and/or non-profit institutions.”

Well, well. That doesn’t sound too bad, does it? But shouldn’t The D’s reporters have gone a little further and done some research concerning the endowment’s comparative performance? It’s not as if the College’s spokesman is just going to give them the homespun truth.

Actually, our young journalists had no need to do any digging — Dartblog has already done the work for them. As this space has reported repeatedly, the College’s endowment showed the highest appreciation in the Ivy League between 1990-2000 and the lowest growth between 2000-2011 (see here, here, and here).

In an institution where students — though perhaps not the editors of The D — take classes in statistics, isn’t it obvious that the peer institutions against whom Dartmouth should measure itself are the other Ivies, or at least other big-endowment schools: currently there are about 30 educational institutions with endowments over two billion dollars. Not a hodgepodge of non-profits and schools big and small. But no, The D unreflectingly parrots the College spokesman’s self-serving presentation of Dartmouth being in “the top-quartile … within three applicable universes of higher education and/or non-profit institutions.” Geez. Imagine if a College official boasted that Dartmouth students are in the top quartile of all students. While that may be true, such a figure hides a lot more than it reveals.

Why does The D consistently shill for the administration? Out of some misguided love for Dartmouth? Or in order to curry favor with the folks from Parkhurst who so enjoy taking the editors to lunch? Or because the paper’s reporters are plain lazy?

The answer is beyond me. But what is clear is that by covering up the truth regarding the endowment’s woefully poor financial performance over the past decade, The D is not helping students, faculty, staff and alumni come to grips with the reality of Dartmouth’s declining financial situation.

Addendum: If you want to look for yourself at the endowment performance of all major colleges and universities, the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO)-Commonfund Study of Endowments for 2011 is here, and the Association’s historic data for schools back to 1990 is here.

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