Editorial, Opinion

EDIT: It’s Best to Divest

The Boston University Board of Trustees and the Board’s 14-member Executive Committee has declined to divest from companies that manufacture firearms, despite a recommendation by the Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing that was made in December 2014.

The ACSRI, made up of three trustees, three students and three faculty members, put forth the recommendation after the increase in gun violence over the past few years. The catalyst, though, was the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on Dec. 14, 2012 that killed 26 people.

The committee stated in their proposal that “a legislatively created balance between the Constitution’s Second Amendment’s rights and pragmatic, effective controls would help reduce the unacceptable level of social harm created by tragedies such as the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School and the continued acts of gun violence since that event, The Boston Globe reported on Monday.

However, the trustees rejected the proposal, stating that gun manufacturers do not cause “clearly unacceptable” social harm and that there would be more harm than good caused by divestment, according to a memorandum published by BU Today on Monday.

The ASCRI meets at least once per year, and at least five members out of the nine must vote for a recommendation to be passed on to the board. BU President Robert Brown, who sits in on meetings as an ex officio member, told BU Today that the discussion about divesting from gun manufacturing companies led to a discussion about when divestment is necessary.

“The answer is, ‘Not never, but it’s a very high bar,’” Brown said. The committee voted in 1984 to divest from private institutions with stakes in apartheid Africa, The Daily Free Press reported in 2013. This indeed sets the bar very high, but a lack of divestment from gun companies now sets a big social example that will reflect upon the university for years to come.

Jennifer Fiore, a spokeswoman for the Campaign to Unload, told the Globe that many colleges are currently taking strides to divest from the gun industry, mostly due to student groups’ advocacy. Campaign to Unload, formed in 2013 in reaction to the shooting at Sandy Hook, advocates for divestment.

“The reason it’s so critical for universities to divest is [that] gun violence, in 2015, will become the leading cause of death for millennials,” she told the Globe. She cites information from the Center for American Progress, which states that this year, death by firearms will surpass car accidents as the leading cause of death for those aged 15 to 24.

A large number of people, firms and institutions have divested from gun manufacturing companies in recent years, the Globe reported, mostly due to the increase in mass shootings and gun violence. The University of California system has totally divested from gun industries, following petitions from the student governments at its Irvine and Santa Barbara campuses to divest from current holdings in gun companies and not invest in them in the future. So to say that we go to a school that profits off of the manufacture and sale of handguns is not something that sounds good.

From a practical standpoint, it’s hard to direct our distaste directly at the gun companies. After all, they are not the ones shooting people. But it’s the fact that BU supports the manufacture of these guns, which are killing more and more people every year, that sends a message about the morality of those on the board who made this decision. One can understand what the board is doing in trying to stay objective, but it gets to a certain point where you can’t deny the facts: gun violence is real, and it’s an epidemic. In theory, remaining apolitical in one’s investments is reasonable, but in practice, especially in situations like this, it’s impossible. BU is going to make a political statement with this decision regardless of whether or not they intended to.

Taking cues from the University of California system at a time like this would be helpful: student interaction with the issues is key. The money is going toward the students, and it’s coming from a place that many are uncomfortable with. There are so many other places BU could be putting its money that would be easier to wrap our minds around. We’re the ones living in this world and dealing with the social implications of decisions just like these that change the world.

The memorandum also pointed out that 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.” It’s upsetting that the board believes that generations to come would judge them more harshly for divesting from gun companies than for continuing to support them. There is a clear generation gap in a rapidly changing world — they can’t escape the social consequences of this decision.

Social implications are what change the world, and BU does not want to be on the wrong side of history.

Editor’s Note: A member of the editorial board of The Daily Free Press wrote the news story about BU’s decision not to divest from firearm manufacturers. To maintain the utmost objectivity within our news section, that editor did not participate in the deliberation and writing of this staff editorial.

5 Comments

  1. Based on the perpetual lies and attacks on our civil rights to suit your socialist demneted fantasies, I am beginning to compare editors to the pestilent, clinical insane blood thirsty immorality and perversion so common in lawyers.

  2. >“The reason it’s so critical for universities to divest is [that] gun violence, in 2015, will become the leading cause of death for millennials,” she told the Globe.<<

    Fairly strange, when the official records — from the FBI — show that "gun violence" is down 40 percent over the last 20 years. Forty percent is huge! While gun sales are increasing, crimes with guns is going down.

    How unfortunate for the narrative of those who push the manta of more guns causing more crime. Awkward.

  3. “…mostly due to the increase in mass shootings and gun violence…”

    Uh, sorry. According to those rascals at the FBI, mass shootings are NOT on the rise, and gun violence is at an all time low.

    Oops. Facts are tough things, aren’t they?

  4. Right. If you can’t circumvent the constitution, use alternative means.

    What does that say about your integrity?

  5. LtCol Stephen A. Bonning

    Then there should be no issues in socially-responsible investors from divesting themselves of stocks in auto manufacturers, as cars ARE the leading cause of deaths of millennials in the U.S. Further, they then not be further burdened by the hypocrisy of their narrow, myopic views.