Firearms divestment petition under review
University President Shirley Tilghman has received a petition from faculty members urging the University to divest its holdings in companies involved in the manufacture of firearms similar to those used in the Dec. 14 shooting Newtown, Conn. The petition has been sent to the Resources Committee for review.
The committee, which examines objections to the University’s financial policy, will meet on Thursday to discuss the petition. The committee is composed of faculty members along with undergraduate and graduate student representatives.
“Personally, I deeply sympathize with the sentiments expressed in the petition,” Tilghman said in an interview with The Daily Princetonian. “But my personal views are the views of one person. The issue for the University and for the board is what is the right decision for the University to take, as opposed to any one individual.”
The document, co-authored by professors Caryl Emerson, Marie-Helene Huet and Simon Morrison, expressed concern regarding the potential of “current or future investments in companies involved in the manufacture and distribution of multiple, rapid-firing semiautomatic assault weapons and the bullets that equip them.”
The authors cited similar moves by both public and private institutions as motivation for the petition. On Monday, they declined to comment until Tilghman confirmed receipt of the petition. They did not respond to repeated requests for comment on Monday night and on Tuesday. It is not yet clear how many faculty members have signed the petition.
Tilghman said Nassau Hall was currently investigating whether or not the University holds investments that could fall under the category described in the petition.
In recent memory, the University has twice acted upon calls for divestment.
General campus consensus during the late 1980s led to a withdrawal of all University holdings in companies associated with apartheid South Africa. A decade-and-a-half later, in 2006, the University announced it would indefinitely divest in corporations — primarily from the oil and gas sector — implicated in the Sudanese genocide.
“My recollection is that it was a conversation that was being initiated all over campus, by students, by faculty, by trustees,” Tilghman said of the move to divest in South Africa, which took place when she was a member of the faculty. “I think it was a classic example of consensus from almost the very beginning.”
Neither decision, however, was instigated by a petition. The most recent petition for divestment came in 2002, when a group called for the University to divest from companies doing business in Israel.
In that case, the Resources Committee chose not to recommend divestment to the Board of Trustees.
The Resources Committee was originally scheduled to meet with the Princeton Coalition for Endowment Responsibility on Thursday and will now also use this meeting to begin discussion of the petition.
PCER, an undergraduate student organization with five active members formed on the heels of a USG referendum in the spring, suggested three months ago that the University form a committee to ensure the endowment is invested in “socially responsible ways.”