News » University Affairs | Sept. 25
The University’s investments do not include any “direct” holdings in weapons manufacturing companies, according to a report released by the Resources Committee during the summer. This report is the result of an investigation in response to a petition by faculty members requesting that the University divest any holdings it may have in firearms.
The report was published on the Resources Committee’s website over the summer, without public announcement.
In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December 2012, 113 members of the faculty signed a petition calling on the University to disown “current and future investment in companies involved in the manufacture and distribution of multiple, rapid-firing semi-automatic assault weapons and the bullets that equip them.” The petition was authored by professors Caryl Emerson, Marie-Helene Huet and Simon Morrison. In conjunction with the faculty petition, the Student Anti-Violence Effort issued a Student Statement of Support that garnered 351 signatures.
The Resources Committee’s report also questions whether the proposed divestment is the most effective way to achieve the goals stated in the petition. It encourages the petitioners to revise their request to focus on companies that market weapons, rather than manufacturers.
“I think the committee knew and understood where the faculty were coming from. We’ve got just very clear guidelines that we have to use,” Deborah Prentice, a psychology professor who is chair of the Resources Committee, said. “If you read the guidelines and you read what they were asking for, it was very hard to come up with a different response.”
The Resources Committee, a division of the Council of the Princeton University Community, is tasked with evaluating issues of socially responsible investments in the University’s endowment portfolio. The endowment is managed by the Princeton University Investment Company.
While Prentince stated that there was clearly a core University value at stake in the issue, divestment was not a well-defined or practical enough action at this stage.
“The problem is, the actual manufacturer of the weapon isn’t the problem, it’s the use of the weapon, so divesting from the manufacturer of the weapon isn’t, in fact, a direct response,” Prentice said. “It didn’t meet the criterion that the action being requested was going to address.”
The Resources Committee’s guidelines state strictly that the purpose of divesting from a company should not be to make a political statement, which the petitioners said was a key goal.
Princeton University Investment Company President Andrew Golden declined to clarify what the report meant by “direct” holdings, citing PRINCO’s policy not to comment on specific holdings in the endowment. He noted that the petition and report demonstrated that debates over social concerns related to the endowment were possible without discussing specific investments.
The report reads that the Resources Committee “learned from PRINCO that, at present, the University does not have any direct holdings in companies that manufacture weapons.” Golden, however, emphasized that PRINCO did not directly provide information to the Resources Committee, suggesting instead that the information may have come from the Board of Trustees or the University President, who are privy to otherwise confidential information regarding the University endowment.
Huet was not available to be interviewed, but noted that she was disappointed by the report.
Student leaders of Student Anti-Violence Effort were satisfied with the results of the report.
“We’re definitely really happy to hear that the University in fact does not invest in assault weapons manufacturers,” Molly Fisch-Friedman ’16, SAVE co-head, said. “That’s definitely something we were hoping for.”