CPUC meeting addresses town-gown relationship, private prison divestment| Mar 27, 2017
At the Council of the Princeton University Community meeting, the University’s agenda included addressing concerns surrounding its investments with its endowment, the Princeton University Investment Company, and the University’s relationship with the town.
Members of the committee addressed a packed room, many of whom were anticipating debate over the University endowment’s possible investment in private prisons.
In describing the University’s relationship with the town, Vice President and Secretary of the University Bob Durkee ’69 said the University donates more than $22 million to the community. In his remarks, Durkee explained that in 2014, the University committed to donating $22 million over seven years, and has donated $3.09 million so far this year.
The University focuses on donating to public aid programs such as emergency services, the Princeton Public Library, and education. For example, University students and faculty help make up the all-volunteer firefighting force in the town. Additionally, when the Princeton Public School system renovated their school library, the University donated a half million dollars.
The University also contributes millions of dollars annually both directly and indirectly to the local community, Durkee explained. Many University-owned properties are tax exempt — an issue that was the subject of a lawsuit last year. The University pays $9.18 million in property taxes every year, of which $5.68 million are on tax exempt properties, Durkee said. These taxes indirectly contribute to the roughly $60 million annual budget of the Borough of Princeton.
The University’s donations include $500,000 each for an emergency services facility and a firefighting apparatus. In addition to donating money, the University keeps two emergency vehicles on campus so that 20-30 student volunteer EMTs, about 50-60 percent of Princeton’s total number of volunteer EMTs, can back up the Township’s EMTs in situations with multiple injuries. Sending student EMTs is at least 10 minutes faster than waiting for West Windsor EMTs, which helps to minimize the drain on county resources, enabling the county to answer more calls.
The University’s support for the public library enables wider program offerings.
“If you ask at a library outside of Princeton [what Princeton Public Library is known for], they will say programs, and that has everything to do with our partnership with the University,” said Princeton Public Library Director Brett Bonfield.
A new partnership between the University and the library involves the Princeton Environmental Film Festival, associated with the Princeton Environmental Institute and program on Gender and Sexuality Studies, which premiered last night. For the first time in its 11-year existence, the Princeton Environmental Film Festival will be showing films on campus in addition to at the public library, according to Bonfield.
Furthermore, University student volunteers offer after-school homework help daily at the public library. To offset the sparse scheduling of in-person tutoring, the library created a program called Brainfuse, utilizing an online learning site.
Another ongoing partnership between the University and the town enables community members to audit any of 150 classes, according to Bob Pollack, a community member. He said that his friend, a former Princeton Township community member, failed in trying to extend this program to Harvard and MIT.
Following the discussion of the University’s relationship with the town, the meeting moved to cover divestment from private prisons in the University’s endowment PRINCO — a topic the CPUC Resources Committee has discussed over the last two years, according to the committee’s chair Michael Littman. At around 5:45 p.m., members of PPPD walked out of the meeting chanting in support of divestment.
University President Christopher Eisgruber ’83 noted at the CPUC meeting that the University is not directly invested in private prisons through its endowment, nor does it plan to be in the future — a statement that had not been articulated previously, due to the University’s reluctance to discuss its endowment investments. Eisgruber has not released the University's endowment portfolio, however.
The meeting took place in Friend Center 101 at 4:30 p.m. on Mar. 27.