Petition urges U. to divest holdings in firearm companies
A petition urging the University to divest its holdings in companies involved with the production of firearms will be formally reviewed by the Resources Committee in February. The petition, written by faculty members, was inspired by reactions to the Dec. 14 shooting in Newtown, Conn., and specifically references firearms similar to those used in the shooting.
The petition has received 113 signatures from faculty members, according to University Director of Public Affairs Karen Jezierny. The Resources Committee, a subcommittee of the Council of the Princeton University Community which handles objections to the University’s financial policy, met on Thursday amid ongoing talks in Washington, where a task force on gun control led by Vice President Joe Biden is preparing to make recommendations to President Obama as early as Tuesday.The Committee will begin gathering data specific to the petition for a second meeting scheduled for mid-February.“There’s a process now that we’ll go through, and the first step in that is identifying exactly what information we’d like to gather,” said psychology professor Deborah Prentice, who chairs the committee. “What we expect to do then is invite the faculty who initiated the petition to meet with the committee and discuss their thoughts.”The Resources Committee last recommended divestment to the Board of Trustees in 2006, when it suggested withdrawing investment from all companies believed to be complicit in the genocide in Darfur.Prentice noted that debate surrounding the current petition is fundamentally different from that which resulted in the 2006 divestment decision largely because this petition was promoted by the Board of Trustees and followed similar actions taken by the University’s peer institutions.“Our job in 2006 was much more focused since we were chiefly gathering information on the decisions of our peer institutions,” Prentice explained. “When the community brings something forward, the first question is ‘does the petition reflect broadly the interests of the community?’”More recently, the Princeton University Investment Corporation announced that it would indefinitely avoid investing in the hospitality firm HEI. At the time, HEI faced allegations of workers’ rights violations. However, PRINCO President Andrew Golden said that the decision to withdraw its investments in the firm was “based purely on business reasons.”Last Thursday’s meeting was originally scheduled as an opportunity for the Princeton Coalition for Endowment Responsibility, a student group of five members, to present to the Committee a proposal outlining several specific changes to the Committee’s guidelines for considering changes to financial policy.Most prominently, the proposal includes a more explicit definition of “University core values.” The Resources Committee lists the violation of University core values as a criterion for recommending a change to financial policy.PCER also asked that the threshold of “sustained campus interest” required to begin the process of reviewing a investment according to the Committee’s guidelines be set at a fixed level, such as a number of signatures required. They also asked that the student representative to the Resources Committee be elected rather than appointed.“We fully support the intention of the Resources Committee,” said Lily Adler ’15, a member of PCER. “But we think the current guidelines written for the Committee are vague and that, ultimately, the Committee has not been effective in achieving its purpose in an effective and clear way.”Prentice said that PCER’s recommendations were well received by the Committee.“We’re eager to engage their interest in the committee’s activities,” she said. “We do come at it from a slightly different vantage point than they do, but what I imagine happening is an ongoing dialogue.”In the wake of the shooting, which claimed the lives of 20 children and six adults, over 300 college and university presidents have signed an open letter to Congress calling for reform of gun-control legislation and immediate action to curb gun-related violence.However, no Ivy League presidents have signed the document, though University President Shirley Tilghman expressed her deep sympathy with the sentiments expressed in the petition in a recent interview with The Daily Princetonian.