Trustees opt against tobacco divestment

530 senior Penn faculty members signed a letter supporting divestment

· June 20, 2014, 2:14 pm   ·  Updated June 25, 2014, 6:40 pm

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The proposal calling for Penn to divest its $7.7 billion endowment from tobacco companies died without a vote at Friday’s Board of Trustees meeting.

Board Chair David L. Cohen recognized the detrimental health effects of tobacco but said that it does not constitute a “moral evil,” excluding it from the grounds of Penn’s divestment policy.

“I am no fan of tobacco,” Cohen said at the meeting. “But the fact is the manufacture, sale and use of tobacco products is legal in this country.”

Cohen presented alternative methods through which the University can express concerns about tobacco, including sharing the divestment proposal and trustee views with Penn’s current investment managers and discouraging and reducing the use of tobacco within the University.

Newly elected Vice Chair Andrea Mitchell and former Chairman James Riepe spoke in accordance with Cohen’s points.

“As a cancer survivor and someone who has advocated against tobacco use professionally... I feel that the steps you have outlined are a more effective way for the University to take action,” Mitchell said.

After the brief discussion, Cohen asked the board members if any would like to put forward a resolution for tobacco divestment. None of the roughly two dozen trustees did.

The decision follows an overwhelming wave of divestment support from Penn faculty and the University Council. 530 senior Penn faculty members signed an open letter supporting divestment, and the University Council saw a 51-6 vote in favor of divestment.

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