Following the recent shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning Professor Sheldon Krimsky wrote a petition to urge the administration to divest from companies that produce, distribute or sell military-style weapons to the public. Arts, Sciences and Engineering faculty members voted 50-0-4 in support of the petition, which has received 61 signatures, at the March 28 Arts, Sciences and Engineering faculty meeting.
Following the faculty meeting, the university examined its portfolio and found that the university does not directly hold shares in gun-manufacturing companies, according to Patrick Collins, Executive Director of Public Relations at Tufts.
“As of March 29, 2018, the university does not directly hold shares in any individual companies that produce, distribute or sell guns,” Collins told the Daily in an email. “While we cannot dictate the investment policies of the commingled funds in which the university funds are invested, we do review the investments of any new fund we are considering.”
An April 2017 statement, released by the Office of the President on the heels of a TCU Senate resolution urging divestment from certain corporations that work with the Israeli government, confirms that Tufts cannot easily divest from commingled funds.
In an initial interview, Krimsky laid out the response that he wanted to hear from the university regarding the petition.
“If Tufts does not invest in [gun manufacturers], I think Tufts should say we do not and we will not, and that in it of itself would be a statement that the rest of the world could understand and listen to,” he said.
Later, while Krimsky said he was gratified that Tufts had confirmed that it had no investments in gun manufacturers, he expressed disappointment that they had yet to make a full public statement clarifying that Tufts would halt all future investments.
“If [Tufts] had said ‘We do review the investments of any new funds we are considering and will make every reasonable effort to keep our funds from companies that manufacture, distribute or sell military-style assault weapons to the public,’ the administration would show a full commitment to the faculty petition,” Krimsky told the Daily in an email.
Krimsky also spoke about his reasons for starting the petition, citing the call to action he felt following the Parkland shooting.
“When I heard the results of that massacre, my first reaction was practically tears to see these kids slaughtered like that … my next reaction was what can I do, what influences do I have,” he said. “It came to me that … Tufts can exercise its moral authority and speak out … [and] maybe others will follow.”
Sociology Professor Paul Joseph explained why he signed the petition.
“It’s an insanity, really, that we know that the presence of assault weapons means that so many more lives will be lost,” he said. “To do nothing in the face of that is terrible, and I do think that universities over the years have demonstrated that when they take a stance on divestment, it can really make a difference.”
Joseph said University President Anthony Monaco was supportive of the goals of the faculty petition.
“President Monaco was [at the vote], and he said that he would work with the university in order to enact this,” he said. “I took it as him taking a sympathetic stance.”
When Krimsky initially presented the petition at a Feb. 28 faculty meeting, Monaco expressed his support, but stressed that getting out of commingled funds is difficult.
“It’s hard to excuse ourselves from this conversation and I’m sympathetic to this petition … It’s hard to get out of commingled funds, hard and expensive,” Monaco said. “We can urge the managers to get out of these companies … I’ll try to advocate this to the Trustees as best I can.”
“We appreciate the concerns raised by faculty members in Arts, Science & Engineering in their vote and in a previously submitted petition from faculty in the School of Medicine. We are deeply disturbed by the gun violence that afflicts our nation and, in particular, our schools, and we are committed to promoting solutions and positive change,” Monaco said.
The success of the petition has gone unnoticed by many, Krimsky noted.
“I’m pretty sure this is the first time a university has voted on a petition regarding such a divestment,” he said. “If MIT or Harvard had voted on it, [news of their petition] would have been in the Boston Globe.”
Despite this lack of recognition, Krimsky said he had reached out to colleagues at other universities to gauge their opinions of the petition, reporting that he had received very positive feedback from them.
Krimsky concluded by summarizing what he hoped that universities could do for the Never Again movement.
“The high school kids are the best chance right now, the way they’ve organized themselves, if they continue,” he said. “I don’t think an individual can operate successfully in this arena. You have to be part of a movement to do it. When they come to the universities, it would be good for them to know that the universities are on their side.”