Students call for firearms divestment
In response to a faculty petition urging the University to divest from assault weapon manufacturers after the Dec. 14 shooting in Newtown, Conn., the founding members of the Student Anti-Violence Effort have initiated a student statement of support that will be sent to the Resources Committee for review in April. The statement, according to SAVE co-head Molly Fisch-Friedman ’16, is meant to show student support for the cause, which has gained a large following on campuses across the nation.
“We were very shocked by the shooting, and we wanted to do something instead of just being a bystander,” said Fisch-Friedman. “We wanted to try and make a difference on a national and local scale.”
As of Tuesday, the statement, which was circulated to students through residential college listservs, had received 353 signatures. The faculty-led petition authored by professors Caryl Emerson, Marie-Helene Huet and Simon Morrison was sent to the Resources Committee for review in February and contained 113 signatures.
The Resources Committee, a subcommittee of the Council of the Princeton University Community, handles objections to the University’s financial policy and can make recommendations to the Board of Trustees, which supervises the investment of the endowment.
Although the Resources Committee did not specifically request to see student support for the cause, committee chair and psychology department chair Deborah Prentice said that the petition will be reviewed alongside the faculty’s in an upcoming meeting this April. While the committee has met with the three faculty members who organized the original petition, no formal meeting has convened to discuss the divestment requests.
“It was not necessary to have students’ support, but we thought it would be more meaningful and more powerful,” Fisch-Friedman said.
The Resources Committee had indicated that it planned to meet in February to review the University’s investments, but now it has decided to reschedule the meeting to April, Prentice said.
In addition to the faculty petition and student statement calling on the University to divest its holdings from companies involved in firearm production, the committee is also reviewing a petition initiated by Students United for a Responsible Global Environment about divesting from fossil fuel companies. SURGE is a student organization dedicated to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Last year, USG called for a referendum to encourage the University to invest its endowment in “socially responsible” ways. The referendum, which was sponsored by the Princeton Coalition for Endowment Responsibility, sought to improve transparency in University investments and encourage dialogue among students about responsible investment strategies.
After over three years of campus controversy, the University announced in 2012 that it would stop investing in the hospitality firm HEI Hotels & Resorts, which was accused of workers’ rights violations. However, PRINCO President Andrew Golden told The Daily Princetonian in March of that year that the decision to withdraw its investments from the firm was “based purely on business reasons.”
Fisch-Friedman said she and the other SAVE co-founders, Joshua Stadlan ’16 and Leora Friedman ’14, thought a student petition would be the best way to show support for the faculty’s cause. The three came up with the idea for SAVE in December immediately following the Sandy Hook shooting. Fisch-Friedman said the goal of the organization is to raise awareness on campus about gun violence and “memorialize the victims of school shootings in recent history.”
“Certainly having the students sign on reflects that the interest in the issue extends beyond the faculty who signed this petition,” Prentice said.
The Princeton Coalition for Endowment Responsibility, a student group committed to improving the function of the Resources Committee on campus, has not officially endorsed the petition, according to member Lily Adler ’15. While Adler herself has signed on, she said that PCER believes it would be a conflict of interest for the organization to sign the petition since PCER is more concerned with making reforms in the Resources Committee guidelines than supporting individual divestment aims.
“[PCER is] less concerned with whether or not a particular issue is a violation of Princeton’s core values. We’re not making judgment calls on specific issues — that’s not what our group does,” Adler said.
In a continued effort to promote anti-gun violence, SAVE will also be hosting an event on April 24 with Colin Goddard, a survivor of the Virginia Tech shooting, who will give a talk about strengthening gun laws in America. Following the talk, there will be a panel discussion and a screening of “Living for 32,” a documentary on the Virginia Tech shooting.
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