BU trustees decline proposal to divest from gun manufacturers

Published in The Daily Free Press Feb. 5 print edition

By: Mina Corpuz and J.D. Capelouto

Members of the Boston University Board of Trustees and Executive Committee rejected a committee proposal from the Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing to divest from civilian firearms manufacturers, according to a memorandum published by BU Today on Monday.

Board Chairman Robert Knox stated in the memorandum, which was sent to the ACSRI, that the “degree of social harm” and “potential negative consequences of the decision” outweighed divestment action.

“When the University, as an entity, adopts a single viewpoint or takes action relating to divestment, it risks undermining that goal,” Knox wrote in the memorandum. “Therefore, non-investment or divestment actions … should be judged to withstand the test of time in terms of how the wisdom of the University’s decision will be judged by future generations.”

The Executive Committee came to a decision on the proposal after the Board “did not reach overwhelming consensus,” the memorandum stated.

ACSRI, which formed in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut on Dec. 14, 2012 that killed 26 people, made the proposal to divest from gun makers in December 2014, said BU spokesman Colin Riley.

The committee suggested that the university cease investments until regulatory measures “[merit] repeal of this policy,” the recommendation, also published on BU Today, stated.

Claire Richer, one of the three students on ACSRI, said the committee is relatively new and divestment from gun manufacturers was one of their first issues.

“It’s really important … there hasn’t really been a precedent set before of ACSRI recommending things and then the Board of Trustees acting on it, so they had to be careful on how they chose to that,” said Richer, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. “BU has divested from Rwanda and South Africa before, but they did that through the Board of Trustees and not through the ACSRI.”

ACSRI meets annually and is comprised of trustees, faculty members and students, Riley said. Five out of nine votes are required to pass a proposal to the Board of Trustees.

Richer said she is pleased with what has come as a result of the Board’s decision.

“It’s great that they set a precedent of transparency of just like telling the BU community what’s happening,” she said. “That’s a great place to start off with the ACSRI committee.”

David Rosenbloom, a professor of health policy and management in the School of Public Health, said the university’s decision was “unfortunate.”

“These guns are made to kill people. That is their only purpose, and companies that make these guns and make money off of these murders should be denied public support,” he said. “There are plenty of ways to make money for the university, and I believe that it is bad investment policy to invest in companies that are so controversial. I don’t think it’s a wise investment decision, let alone an appropriate moral decision.”

Several students expressed varying viewpoints about the university’s decision not to divest from firearm manufacturers.

“My entire life, I’ve been raised and lived in places that are anti-gun, so generally that’s how I feel, but at the same time, I don’t feel like just BU investment or lack of investment will make a huge difference in the overall gun violence in America,” said Colin Mullins, a freshman in the College of Communication.

Hannah Libby, a freshman in CAS, said she is pro-guns and does not think the Executive Committee’s decision was wrong.

“If it [not divesting] is benefiting someone else, and it’s benefiting BU, then it’s working,” she said. “I would say that to the people who say that that’s a bad thing, that it’s more of a mental health concern with the gun safety and the Sandy Hook shooting than the actually guns themselves.”

Mary Winn Granum, a junior in CAS, said a lack of action from BU sets “a bad precedent” and conflicts with efforts to address gun violence.

“It [the decision] sort of disregards the social and political situation that we’re dealing with, and whether it actually makes a significant financial impact is almost irrelevant in this case,” she said. “That divesting wouldn’t affect companies nor would it really affect us, but it seems like a bad idea to take that sort of apathetic approach to it because there still is that message of ‘We will not turn away from this.’”

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