The University of Pennsylvania board on Friday rejected a proposal that it sell endowment holdings in tobacco companies, as faculty and student groups have urged. A statement from David L. Cohen, Penn's board chair, noted that the university has established criteria for divestment, and Cohen said that tobacco did not meet a key criterion: being morally evil. "After thorough deliberation, the board has determined that the tobacco proposal does not meet the criterion of establishing that there exists a moral evil," the statement said. "The linchpin of any divestment decision at Penn rests on the interpretation of moral evil, which we would view as an activity such as genocide or apartheid. We fully appreciate and understand the concerns that were raised by those who advocate divestment, and we recognize that reasonable people may disagree on this issue. Nonetheless, it is the carefully considered judgment of the board that the manufacture and sale of tobacco products – which is widely accepted as legal, although significantly regulated, in this country – does not qualify as a moral evil." Cohen did say that the university would not seek to add tobacco holdings and that it would use its influence in companies in which it invests to promote responsible policies.
Chris Feudtner, a professor of medical ethics who has helped advocate for divestment, had this reaction via email: "Open and vigorous debate can lead to positive change. Today the trustees of the university took action to prospectively divest from tobacco holding, to use what holdings it retains to advocate for the cessation of tobacco marketing to minors and the curtailment of marketing in the developing world, and to avow the university's commitment to improving the health of individuals and the public by diminishing the harm caused by tobacco. While these steps do not constitute total divestment, they represent a victory for better aligning our institutional values and actions."
Several buildings sustained damage when a tornado struck the University of Wisconsin at Platteville Monday evening. There were no fatalities or serious injuries, but damage assessment is continuing. University officials said that they were committed to being open on time for students who arrive in the fall.
The CEO and two other senior officials of the Harvard Management Co., Harvard University's investment arm, are leaving their jobs or plan to do so soon, following years of disappointing investment returns, Bloomberg reported. For the five years ending June 30, 2013, Harvard saw average returns of 1.7 percent, compared to 6.8 percent at Columbia University and 5.4 percent at the University of Pennsylvania.
Suffolk University has announced that it is freezing salaries for the next fiscal year, The Boston Globe reported. The institution said it was facing an $11 million drop in budgeted revenue due in large part to enrollment shortfalls.
A new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research points to the financial advantages of letting donors designate where in a large university their money might be used. The study used two groups at Texas A&M University at College Station in which one was sent an appeal for the annual fund, and the other was sent a similar appeal, but with the chance to designate some of their gift to the college they attended within Texas A&M. The researchers found no significant difference in the rates at which donors made any gift. But those with the option to designate, if they gave, made larger contributions. The study was by Catherine Eckel and Jonathan Meer of Texas A&M, and David Herberich of the University of Chicago. An abstract of the study may be found here.
The governing board of the Technical College System of Georgia on Thursday voted to approve the proposed merger between Moultrie Technical College and Southwest Georgia Technical College. The system has used mergers in an attempt to save money and be more efficient. The Moultrie and Southwest consolidation is due to be completed next year. It will reduce the number of colleges in the system to 22, down from 33 in 2009, when the mergers began. System officials said students experience little change in the day-to-day operations of their campuses during mergers.
A new oil boom is enriching the University of Texas and Texas A&M University, primarily their flagship campuses, but also the other institutions in the systems, The Dallas Morning News reported. The universities benefit from the Permanent University Fund, created by the state with land in west Texas. The energy produced from the land is resulting in recent endowment growth of 70 percent a year, leading to considerable building of facilities and expansion of programs at a time many state systems remain unable to find cash.
Yeshiva wants to form a new entity with its longtime partner that runs the university hospital at the medical college, the Montefiore Health System. Shortfalls at the university as a whole have been driven by operations at the medical college.
Under the planned arrangement, Montefiore will take “greater responsibility for the day-to-day operations and financial management” of the medical college while Yeshiva will remain the degree-granting institution for it, the university and the health system said in a news release. The university’s trustees and the health system’s board leadership have endorsed the plan, but there is not yet a final agreement and that agreement would then be subject to regulatory approval.