"Let me be clear," Cohen said on the floor of the trustees meeting on campus Friday, "I am no friend of tobacco. I don't use tobacco products. I've never used tobacco products. And I strongly prefer to not to be around when others are using tobacco products."
But tobacco, he said during the less than 10-minute discussion, does not fall in the same category as genocide and apartheid -- two issues on which
"Tobacco presents a very serious public health issue but that does not mean it meets this appropriately very high standard," Cohen said.
Only two other board members,
More than 500 senior faculty members signed an open letter to the board, citing deadly health effects from tobacco and inappropriate marketing efforts to vulnerable populations, including youth in other countries. Several professors and others presented a 17-page proposal for divestment, noting that
University officials have declined to say how much of the university's endowment is tied up in tobacco stocks. Over the last five years, tobacco stocks have done quite well, outperforming the S&P 500 index as a whole.
Mitchell noted that she is a cancer survivor and someone who "has advocated against tobacco use professionally and has worked for decades to better inform the public about the hazards of tobacco use." But, she said, she supported Cohen's suggestion that the university use other methods to take a stand against tobacco rather than divestment.
Cohen said the university will continue and bolster efforts to discourage the use of tobacco in the campus community, use its proxy votes in tobacco companies to advance its views on tobacco and direct new investment managers for the university that
Cohen acknowledged that some other large universities have chosen divestment, but he said he sees divestment as a "gesture" rather than a "solution."
Riepe said the board must adhere to its fiduciary responsibility, insuring maximum returns on the endowment to support the university's education and research.
"The endowment is sustained by donors who reasonably expect that their gifts will be used in support of the university's academic and research mission in perpetuity, and not diverted for other purposes or to advance certain causes, however worthy those purposes or causes may appear to some members of our community," the university said in a statement, following the meeting.
"It's complicated," she acknowledged.
Passante, senior executive director for research and research training at
"We have to regroup," she said.
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