Newsletter for September 1

Chinese Coal, No Revenue, One Employee: Inside UChicago Trustee’s “$1.7 Billion” Firm

By Pete Grieve and Euirim Choi

Good morning.

Exclusive: UChicago Trustee Steve Stevanovich, who is late on paying the University millions to complete pledged donations, is facing lawsuits from loans his hedge funds issued to a Ponzi scheme and an SEC investigation into whether he profited by overvaluing his business ventures, committing securities fraud.

  • One of these ventures, which Stevanovich told the University and investors was worth $1.6–1.7 billion, has one full-time employee, almost no revenue, and is currently the subject of an involuntary bankruptcy petition.
  • Stevanovich has not paid a $10 million pledge for the Stevanovich Institute on the Formation of Knowledge, and he still owes $2.8 million on a $7 million pledge made in 2006 for the Stevanovich Center for Financial Mathematics. With the centers in operation, the University was forced to pick up the tab.
  • He once told a University gift officer that a $100,000,000+ donation was a possibility in the future, but internal e-mails that are available in court documents show Chair of the Board Joseph Neubauer, in an e-mail forwarded to University President Robert J. Zimmer, reporting that “it may be a while” until the University sees any more money from Stevanovich’s pledged donations.

Adhere to Chicago Principles, or lose funding. That’s what Ontario told publicly funded colleges and universities in the province yesterday. The right-wing Ontario government gave the province’s higher-ed institutions until January 1, 2019, to draft public free speech policies that adhere to the University of Chicago’s principles of free expression. The move would be the largest-scale application of the Chicago Principles so far—Ontario is Canada’s most populous province, with a population of 13.4 million according to a 2016 census.

The University has hired Angie Marks as Associate Vice President of Real Estate Operations, according to the Hyde Park Herald. Her experience includes working as Vice President of Real Estate at the Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives, which facilitates investments in neighborhoods including Pullman, Englewood, and Bronzeville, and serving on the board of the nonprofit Housing Opportunities and Maintenance for the Elderly.

Aims of Education: Philosophy professor Gabriel Richardson Lear, who works on ancient Greek and Roman philosophy, is giving this year’s address, according to the abridged O-Week schedule.

Former President Barack Obama acknowledged the delays to construction of his presidential center during a 10-minute appearance at a meeting in the Obama Foundation’s Hyde Park office on Tuesday: “I’ve never built a presidential library before…. The main message I have here today is that we are, thanks to all of your efforts, close to getting this thing going. It is going to be not a quick project. It turns out that building something takes a long time,” he said, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The Obama Foundation also announced its inaugural class of Obama Foundation Scholars at the Harris School on Monday, composed of 25 “emerging leaders.” The scholars will enroll for one year at Harris to work toward a Master of Arts in international development and policy.

Cluster hires: After conducting a massive campus climate survey on diversity and inclusion, the administration said it could pursue cluster hires to increase faculty diversity. The Social Science Division recently posted cluster hire job listings for scholars working at the intersection of race and capitalism. “A goal of this search is to increase the diversity of the faculty in the Division, and we therefore welcome applicants who come from groups historically underrepresented in the discipline, such as Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian, or Alaskan Native,” a job listing reads.

Graduate Students United (GSU) is speaking out in response to an e-mail from the Center for Identity and Inclusion seeking $20,000 in matched donations to its Student Emergency Fund. “What a lot of people found harder to accept was who was being asked to fund this initiative. By writing to CI+I’s own list, the university appeared to place the onus of raising these funds on those who might benefit from them,” GSU’s Tuesday Facebook post said.

UChicago Law School alum Lori Lightfoot (J.D. ’89), a former federal prosecutor, is running as a challenger to Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “I was at the Law School at a time when there wasn’t a tremendous amount of diversity,” she told The Maroon. “And navigating that dynamic absolutely again influenced me in my thinking of equity, inclusion, and social justice.”

Law School professors Geoffrey Stone and Jane Dailey are married.

Former student-body vice president Cody Jones accused TrueNorth Café of calling the police on two homeless men who were asking for money outside the store. Jones alleged on Instagram that an employee asked an officer for them to be removed and said, “If they can stand for 15 hours a day, they can work a job.” TrueNorth responded on Instagram, saying, “These allegations are completely untrue and you owe our barista an apology for these malicious and false claims. Our barista, who is a minority and lives in Woodlawn, has worked the morning shift for TrueNorth and its predecessor for years, did not and would not call the police on anyone.”

The brother of a UChicago professor was arrested for allegedly being a foreign agent of Iran, with the complaint detailing activity monitored by U.S. agents at the Oriental Institute, where he was seen moving in an “unusual fashion,” and campus Jewish centers, which he allegedly surveilled.

UChicago Football’s former offensive coordinator John Bear resigned under duress after the 2016 season due to an incident with a parent at the team's Senior Day game. Bear has since sued the parent alleging assault, and he has sued the University for gender discrimination, alleging a female UChicago coach had a similar incident with a parent that did not result in her termination.