Friday, August 10, 2007

Duke's numbers & alums

Readers Note: Below is a letter which appeared today in the Durham Herald Sun under the lead, Check Duke’s numbers. It’s followed by a double star line after which I offer some commentary.


To the editor:

In a recent story, The Herald-Sun relied on a Duke University press release touting a record $380 million in gifts.

This total must be examined carefully in light of the pressing need of President Richard Brodhead and his administration to proclaim good news in order to survive their handling of the lacrosse debacle.

Exactly half of the increase over the previous year came from an installment payment by The Duke Endowment toward its one-time pledge of $75 million for scholarships. With this surge omitted, the increase did little more than cover inflation.

When measured against the university's budget growth, far exceeding inflation, the impact of the gifts actually diminished. The news release boasted about Brodhead's Financial Aid Initiative.

The claim that more than 75 percent has been pledged is distorted by over-subscription in areas like athletic scholarships. The undisclosed secret: only half of the money for need-based undergraduate aid is in sight, which puts the big goal of the initiative in jeopardy.

Finally there's clever, concealing wording about the Alumni Annual Fund. For 31 consecutive years news releases said the fund "exceeded its goal." This year, the Annual Fund merely "exceeded its previous year's total" with parts like the Law School ominously short of objective.

Overarching these details, to identify the $380 million as "philanthropic gifts" is seriously misleading; for example a large portion is for sponsored medical research, which is to say payment for work to be done. Significantly, the university made no announcement of total contributions for perpetual endowment -- the heart of Duke's enduring strength.

Ed Rickards
New York City

Duke '63,
Duke Law School '66


Rickards letter adds very important information to the Herald Sun’s story. It also raises serious issues which the University and Duke Endowment need to address.

Anyone using alumni annual giving as an indicator of satisfaction or dissatisfaction with President Brodhead and Board of Trustees Chair Robert Steel’s management of the University’s response to the obvious lies Crystal Mangum told and the terrible events that have followed them, should know this: Duke has carefully fed alums bafflegarb while telling them little or nothing about important matters which don’t reflect well on Brodhead and his administration.

So along with other alums, I’ve gotten letters and emails from Brodhead and Steel. They keep hitting the same themes. Things were tough but all is well now. Brodhead spoke up for the lacrosse players. Look to a bright Duke future under Dick’s leadership and move on.

Duke Magazine has been so "rah-rah Brodhead" it ought to be delivered with pom-poms.

But I’d ask my fellow alums if any of those emails or Duke Magazine has ever told them why Brodhead refused to meet with the lacrosse players’ parents when news of Mangum's lies first broke? Or why he continued to refuse to meet with them for many months thereafter?

For that matter, can any alum recall a Duke communication that's even mentioned Brodhead’s refusal?

I doubt if 5% of alums know Brodhead and the trustees said nothing when “activists” came on campus and circulated “Vigilante” posters which targeted 43 white students and added to the danger they were already facing.

Brodhead and Steel have never explained why they decided to say nothing when a Duke student, Reade Seligmann, was the target of death threats from members of the New Black Panthers Party and other racists. Or why they’ve said nothing since about their silence.

Who doubts that at least one reason Steel, Brodhead and the administration have worked so hard to, as one alum friend put it, “keep alums dumb” is their very reasonable calculation that if the alums knew more of what’s gone on at Duke, annual giving would drop significantly while a cry would go up for administrative and trustee changes?

If Duke alumni weren’t outraged once they really learned what the Brodhead/Steel leadership did and didn’t do following Mangum’s lies, what kind of people would they be?

There’s more I could say, but I’ll give other people a chance and “listen.”


Anonymous said...

There is another huge gift that needs to be researched to see if it was a part of their annual total because if it is in the Duke totals, they are WAAAAAYYYY down for the year. This gift is unprecedented in it's unrelatedness to Duke fundraising success or lack thereof....

Gift of S$80 Million to the Duke-National University of Singapore

The Estate of Tan Sri Khoo Teck Puat announced a gift of S$80 million to the Duke-National University of Singapore Graduate Medical School Singapore to grow the school’s biomedical research initiatives. The gift, the largest single donation granted by the estate to date, will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the Singapore government, bringing the total sum to S$160 million.

Anonymous said...

John: All of the omissions that you mention are such a transparent admission that the administration failed so miserably. Dick, "whatever they did was bad enough" Brodhead need to be held accountable for his decisions and behavior. The press release would indicate outright deceit and if the above post has merit (brilliant piece of research by the way) I think Dick and his cohorts had better be wearing some pretty thick shoes because they just stepped in the dog's business. AGAIN !

Anonymous said...

I suspect Duke used its close relationships with several large donors to manage the amounts and timing of contributions. If we adjust the 2006 and 2007 numbers by removing contributions from Duke Endowment, and further adjust 2007 by removing the unusually large contributions from the Gates Foundation for 2007($ 25 million ), the " giving " for 2007 is actually 3% less than 2006, instead of the 11% increase reported.

In the early Fall of 2005 Duke Endowment committed to contribute $75 million over three years for Duke's financial aid initiative. Duke's fiscal year ends 6/30 and Duke Endowment's ends 12/31. This, I hypothesize, allowed Duke the opportunity to double up on the contribtions from Duke endowment in its fiscal year ended 6/30/07. I am currently in the process of trying to prove this hypothesis.

Jack said...

What this post points out, as starkly as ever, is the ignorance (benign, perhaps) of Duke alumni, parents and the general public of just how badly people have behaved in the lacrosse scandal. One can get a sense of tunnel vision by relying on this blog, Durham in Wonderland and perhaps Liestoppers, as sources of information. There is a fervent, committed, zealous cadre at DiW who seem to eat, drink, breathe and type “Duke Lacrosse scandal”, thinking the rest of the world is as informed, or as interested as they appear to be. Sorry, but they are deluding themselves. Trouble is, they only communicate in this tiny little bubble of a blog. Sort of like the story of the NYU professor who, upon waking up and reading that Nixon defeated McGovern for the Presidency remarked, “How could Nixon have won? I don’t know a single person who voted for him”. Most of the rest of the world is oblivious to the issues, it was nothing more than a jock party with strippers, yesterday’s news. Like Duke wants everyone to do, America has moved on.

The fact is this: the issues of injustice and the predation of law enforcement aside (and not to minimize the importance of such issues), the Duke Lacrosse scandal is a Duke problem, to be resolved by the alumni, the trustees, faculty and students. We can all wring our hands, proclaim our outrage, demand consequences and law suits, but to no avail. Duke University is a private institution, with vast resources at its disposal. They are free to hire whom they wish, teach anything they want from Gay Hispanic War Heroes to the Lesbian Industrial Complex; build a gymnasium dedicated solely for feminist hockey players or laboratories devoted exclusively to researching the relationship between Muslims and Xboxes. In my neck of the woods, Northern New Jersey, we have as many Duke alumns as you will find anywhere in the country, and it would surprise people how little they know about how badly their university has behaved, how well entrenched are the radical elements in the Arts and Sciences, how soft are so many of the credentials of the faculty, the unhealthy relationship between the school and Durham, and so many other issues. Yet they continue to give out, out of loyalty, out of habit, perhaps they think now more than ever it is a time of need. But that is their choice, and it is really not appropriate for the general posters here to condemn or second guess those who give. Some may see it as throwing their money away, but, again, it is their money, and Duke is free to spend it any way it wants.

There may be some moving and shaking going on behind the scenes, and when the dust settles, whooomph – out they go. But in the meantime, we should not make the mistake of thinking that the handful of posters (and I do mean "handful") on this or the other Duke Lacrosse sights is really having one whit of impact on the deliberations at Duke University.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Jack, but they are having more impact than you think. The Nixon quote was from Pauline Kael, a prestigious film critic in New York..

Anonymous said...

To Jack @ 6:50----Your very well thought out piece had it's efforts seriously harmed by your use of "sights" instead of "sites" in the last sentence.

Duke BSEE '61
(yes, an engineer correcting an improper usage of language)

Anonymous said...

The comment posted to the blog makes an excellent point I had not considered. I am following up on my letter to the Herald Sun, and seeking information from the highest authority at Duke, as to whether any part of the $80 million gift to Duke-Singapore, or a matching $80 million from the Singapore government, was included in the $380 million Duke University fund raising total. The commentator is correct: if any part was, there indeed was a critical drop off in Duke's ordinary contributions.

With respect to The Duke Endowment's pledge of $75 million over 3 years for the FInancial Aid Initiative, I have been monitoring this very closely and have corresponded even with the Endowment chair, Russell Robinson. Part of that correspondence dealt with the different fiscal years of the University and Endowment. For a while I was quite concerned about aspects of this gift -- the accounting for it, and whether it was indeed "additive" above and beyond the usual Duke Endowment contributions, and above all whether the results were being doctored to make the University effort look better. I am now satisfied that all this is being handled properly.

I am more concerned about Duke's receiving the full $75 million however. There seem to be many contingencies to this pledge that we were not told about at the start. For example not all gifts to the Financial Aid Initiative qualify for matching. I'll be watching.

With respect to the $25 million from the Gates Foundation, there are always some larger gifts that can distort the total. I think we ought to give Duke a pass on this one.

I am more concerned with the total number of donors of all sizes, and the limited words I was allowed at the Herald Sun for my letter meant I had to omit my checking on this area. Certainly the alumni fund's total number did not budge despite the awarding of thousands of degrees to new alumni, and the comparative loss (deaths) of far fewer alums from significantly smaller classes years ago. I have requested these statistics too.

n conclusion, even as a document designed to spin news in favor of Mr. Brodhead as he tries to survive the lacrosse debacle, I was most disappointed in the University's news release about the $380 in "gifts."


Anonymous said...

I disagree with one suggested point--that Duke alumni are somehow in the dark. I know many alums, from different generations, and we all despite Broadhead and his conduct.

Anonymous said...

Mr.Rickards' comments are both insightful and helpful, and demonstrate a real familiarity with Duke fund raising.

Regarding the $ 75 million from Duke Endowment(DE) for Duke's financial aid initiative,it was announced in Oct, 2005 that this amount would be contributed over a three year period. I did some research by reviewing DE's 2005 Form 990 filing ( 2006 is not yet available ) and De's 2006 Annual Report for the year ended 12/31/2006.These show that $ 25 million was contributed to Duke for its financial aid initiatve in the second half of calendar 2005 and another $25 million in the second half of calendar 2006. This means that 2/3 of the $ 75 million had been contributed in about a one year period. I contacted DE directly and asked some very specific questions about the timing and amounts of the contributions to Duke's financial aid initiative. I received a less than specific response but the response seemed to indicate that the entire $ 75 million had already been contributed. I followed up with a specific question asking when the third $25 million was contributed. If it was contributed in the first half of calendar 2007 then Duke would have counted it for its fiscal year ended 6/30/07 and would have recorded $ 50 million in that year, compared to $ 25 million in the year ended 6/30/06. Even if DE contributed the last $25 million in the second half of calendar 2007, the $ 75 million would have been contributed over a two year period, not three years as had been publicly communicated. I have not yet received a response from DE to my follow up question.

In any event this is very misleading and ,depending on when the third contribution was made,may have suspiciously manipulated Duke's fund raising numbers.Unfortunately this type of duplicitous activity from Duke would not surprise me since it is consistent with its behavior in the lacrosse incident.

Jack said...

Duke BSEE '61

Interesting that you would regard something as seriously harmed due to the misuse of one word. A sound engineering approach would not render an entire structure useless because of one misplaced bolt (unless there is only one bolt). Not that I am writing for your benefit or approval, but, it's an odd perspective to focus on minutia at the expense of the whole.

As for anonymous at 1:09 am, it might be encouraging to Duke alumni and supporters if you would share your insight into how these blogs might be affecting changes at the school. Are you privy to discussions among Board of Trustee members, senior administrative officials or influential alumni? What with the likes of Chauncey Nartley traveling about in the company of Brodhead, receiving a “prestigious” university award, Gang of 88 members having their academic standings enhanced, their influence increased, and a truly uninspiring appointment as editor of the Chronicle, it may seem to some that things are going in the wrong direction. Your remarks indicate knowledge to the contrary. Please, share.

AMac said...

Re: the S$80 million dollar gift to Duke's Singapore program, and its S$80 match--the Singapore dollar is worth $0.65 in US currency. Thus, the gift and match would amount to about US$105 million.

Anonymous said...

Update: Tuesday Aug 15 -- I have heard from both Sr Vice President for PR Burness and VP for fundraising and alumni affairs Shepard, which is amazing response time for either of them them. However, both batted the ball to another official without giving any substantive information. So the wait goes on.

I have a current inquiry in to The Duke Endowment about some unrelated matters. The endowment's president is on vacation and the (new) PR person isn't touching it. I will expand this to ask for the specific dates of payment of installments on the $75 million. The Endowment's annual reports for calendar years 2005 and 2006 state that in each year, $25 million was paid.

Time will tell. The questions will not die.


Anonymous said...

I posted previously( 2:23 p.m. and 7:17 a.m.) I also have sent several very specific questions to Duke Endowment(DE) and to Duke regarding this $ 75 million and other contributions. In particular, I inquired about the timing of DE's $ 15 million contribution to the Duke Engage initiative which was announced in Jan.2007. The Gates Foundation also committed $15 million to endow this initiative. Depending on when these cotributions were made, a suspicious person might conclude that Duke accelerated the rollout of Duke Engage to " boost " its contributions for the year ended 6/30/07.

While I received an initial, non specific response from DE to my original inquiries, I have received no response to my pointed follow up questions. I have also received no response from Duke.

I also reviewed the Indenture of Trust for DE and Duke's financial statements, and accompanying notes, for the year ended 6/30/06( 2007 is not yet available). The Indenture provides for certain annual " required " distributions to Duke and several other organizations. DE's trustees have a fair amount of flexibility to make additional discretionary distributions. There are 15 trustees, most of which have strong prior connections to Duke.

According to the notes to Duke's 6/30/06 financial statements, DE made required distributions to Duke of $12 million and $14 million respectively for the years ended 6/30/05 and 6/30/06 ; discretionary distributions were $ 25 million and $40 million respectively. While this breakout is not yet available for the year ended 6/30/07, given that DE's total contribtions to Duke were about $75 million for this year, the discretionary portion certainly increased very significantly from the prior year.

I believe that Duke used this unique, and very close, relationship with DE ( and several other large donors) to " manage " its fund raising results for the year ended 6/30/07. I suspect that contributions from" rank and file " alumni were running below expectations , probably due to Duke's bad behavior in the lacrosse incident. Duke needed the cooperation of DE and several other large donors to boost its numbers and demonstrate no ill effects from the lacrosse incident. If true ,this would be a sad, but not surprising, commentary


Anonymous said...

Note that Duke Endowment had assets of about $ 2.9 billion as of 12/31/06.Considering the amount of assets, the wide discretion given to the trustees and the trustees' close connections to Duke, it would seem that Duke could always meet or exceed its fund raising targets. Therefore,exceeding these targets does not necessarily indicate strong support from alumni for Duke's administration and its actions.


Anonymous said...

Has Ed Rickards found any information about the DE gifts and the huge gift to the Duke-National University of Singapore? Funny that Shepard didn't answer since he would be intimately involved with ANY large gifts like these.

Anonymous said...

THE Duke Endowment and the Duke Endowment are two different entities. The former is the Duke family's endowment and the latter is the University endowment. The gifts are from THE Duke Endowment.

Anonymous said...

To 9:27 a.m.. Thank you. I know that these are two separate entities. All my references relate to THE Duke Endowment. In the future I will try to remember to include the " THE ".


Anonymous said...

In reviewing Duke's financial statements and notes for fye 6/30/06 ( 2007 is not yet available ) I saw no mention of the Duke Singapore medical school. I'm not sure what the financial connection, if any, is between this entity and Duke but it doesn't appear to be recognized, at least visibly, in Duke's financial statements.

From the related press releases announcing the formation of this arrangement it seems that the financing is coming primarily from the Singapore govt.and also from some private donations. There is no mention of any financing from Duke.

Given the above, it would seem to be very surprising, and highly inappropriate, if Duke included any of the contributions related to the Singapore medical school in Duke's fund raising numbers.

I also posed specific questions related to the Singapore contributions to Duke and have not yet received a response.


Anonymous said...

I too believe it would be highly inappropriate, though less surprising, if they utilized that particular gift in their numbers. It was publicized on Duke's development website, however, and the unwillingness to provide an answer to a simple question certainly leads me to wonder even more.