The University Record, October 11, 1999

Committee appointed to study question of divestment of tobacco stocks

By Jane R. Elgass

An eight-member committee has been appointed to study the question of whether the University should own stock in tobacco companies as part of its overall investment portfolio.

Establishment of the committee was discussed with the Board of Regents last spring by Robert Kasdin, executive vice president and chief financial officer, and President Lee C. Bollinger, who noted at the time the group would “consider whether the holding of such securities is antithetical to the core missions of the University and therefore merit divestiture. Personal disapproval or disdain for those companies will not justify an institutional decision to divest.

“Except in exceptional circumstances, pressure to invest the endowment in ways that support particular political opinions must be resisted if we are to leave a university to succeeding generations at least as strong as the one with which we have been entrusted,” Kasdin and Bollinger added.

Appointed by Kasdin, the committee is chaired by Kyle Logue, professor of law. Other members are Kathryn Dominguez, associate professor of public policy; Paul Lichter, chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and the F. Bruce Fralick Professor of Ophthalmology; Heidi Lubin, undergraduate student, Department of History; Judith Pitney, executive director, budget and planning, College of Engineering; Helmut Stern, Aracanum Corp., member of the community; Kevin Toh, graduate student in philosophy; and Kenneth Warner, professor of health management and policy.

Senate Assembly had expressed concern over the past several years about the University’s holdings in tobacco companies and passed a resolution urging divestment of those holdings Oct. 27, 1997.

In response, University officials reviewed the procedural framework used in the late 1970s for discussions about divestment of holdings in companies that did business in South Africa.

“In that context,” Kasdin noted in his charge to the committee, “the Board of Regents concluded that if any investment issue involves serious moral or ethical questions that are of concern to many members of the University community, an advisory committee consisting of members of the University Senate, students, staff and alumni would be appointed to gather information and formulate recommendations.”