The University Record, December 14, 1998
By Jane R. Elgass
Senate Assembly will likely host a public forum on the issue of divestment of tobacco stocks at its April meeting, based on discussion at the Dec. 7 meeting of the group.
William Ensminger, chair of the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs, indicated in response to questioning, that we ask [President Lee C. Bollinger] about it every time we see him. He is meeting with students. [Michigan Student Assembly] appears to have significant input. We are at some sort of impasse.
The Assembly passed a resolution in October 1997 supporting divestment of U-M holdings in tobacco companies. At the groups October 1998 meeting, Bollinger said that divestment of holdings in tobacco companies is a complicated one for the University, a clash of principles. We like to not do wrong and we care about our behavior and its consequences. But we must be very careful to not become politicized.
He also indicated that he and other administrators will bring the issue to the groups with whom we interact. Before we take any action, we need to know the scope of the feelings of the University community and then address the question in light of this.
It is important to realize that the University needs a coherent approach to issues of this nature, including a discussion of how the investment policy fits in the picture, Bollinger said in October.
Ensminger noted that the president is aware of and understands the facultys position. The alumni and students have some impact, and if they support it, thats important. Its a pretty high target to get everyone to support.
At Ensmingers request, Paul Berg, the Michigan Daily reporter covering the meeting, told Assembly members that students are divided on the issue, with some maintaining the University could have more impact on the companies by remaining a stockholder.
While the composition of presenters at the forum is up for discussion, it likely will include representatives of the faculty, students and alumni bodies, as well as physicians and public health experts. Also suggested were economists and political scientists, since the issue has points and counterpoints, according to one Assembly member.
Another said that even if divestment does not affect the companies, it provides a perfect opportunity for the University to demonstrate moral leadership.
Six members of Senate Assembly were elected at the Dec. 7 meeting to serve on the nominating committee that will present a slate of candidates for membership on the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs (SACUA). The members are: William Ensminger, chair and outgoing SACUA member; Carol Loveland-Cherry, also an outgoing SACUA member; and outgoing Senate Assembly members Alphonse Burdi, Kathleen Cooney, Margaret Lomax and Jeremiah Turcotte.
Senate Assemblys Jan. 11 meeting will feature Jackie R. McClain, executive director, Human Resources/Affirmative Action, and Marvin Krislov, vice president and general counsel, who were scheduled to speak at the Dec. 7 meeting but were unable to attend.
On Feb. 15, the group will meet with Gilbert S. Omenn, vice president for medical affairs, and hear from Fred Morrison, a member of the law faculty at the University of Minnesota who has written about the near-collapse of tenure at that school, according to Ensminger.
The March 15 meeting features the annual Davis-Markert-Nickerson Academic Freedom Lecture. The speaker will be David A. Hollinger, professor of history at the University of California, Berkeley, who was at the U-M in 197792. His books include Postethnic America: Beyond Multiculturalism (1995) and Science, Jews and Secular Culture: Studies in Mid-Twentieth Century American Intellectual History, forthcoming in January.