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Letter to the Editor: Response to PPPD

In your edition on April 3, you published an open letter to me from the Princeton Private Prison Divest Coalition. The letter raised a number of questions that I know are of interest to many members of the campus community. I have addressed those questions in the following open letter to the PPPDC.

Thank you for your letter on behalf of the Princeton Private Prison Divest Coalition. You are correct that the issue of divestment focuses on whether the University should prohibit any future investment or association with a specified set of companies. It is my understanding that this question remains under consideration by the CPUC Resources Committee, which, as you know, consists of three faculty members, two undergraduates, a graduate student, and two members of the administrative staff. It is that committee to which the trustees look for advice on divestment-related issues.


At the CPUC meeting last week and on its website, the Resources Committee has invited the PPPDC to provide additional information, and it also has welcomed the views of other members of the community. My understanding is that other groups, including the Undergraduate Student Government and the Whig-Cliosophic Society, are discussing the issue, and the Resources Committee itself has at least two remaining meetings this year.

As you point out, the trustees have final authority to decide whether to divest from a particular set of companies, and they have established criteria for making that decision. Because there is a general presumption against the University taking such actions, other than in exceptional cases, the standards set a very high bar. The Resources Committee is guided by those standards in determining whether, and on what grounds, to bring forward a recommendation to the trustees. The trustees take their responsibilities very seriously, but they do not begin their decision-making process until the Resources Committee has completed its work.

You made reference to the statement by President Eisgruber at the CPUC meeting that the University does not hold investments in the 11 companies specified in your proposal and it does not intend to obtain such holdings. He made this statement, in part, because an opinion column in last Monday’s Daily Princetonian asserted that the University had current investments. His clarification that the University does not currently have any such investments allowed the discussion to focus on the question of policy going forward. I can assure you that the President would not have made this statement without being absolutely certain that the University, in fact, has no investments of any kind, direct or indirect, in any of the 11 companies.

As a member of the CPUC, I thought last week’s update from the Resources Committee had the effect of focusing community attention on the question of divestment from private prison companies and of broadening the discussion. I appreciate the time that the members of the PPPDC have invested in this issue, and I hope that you, along with others, will engage with the committee in the continuing discussion.

Bob Durkee ’69

Vice President and Secretary