Student’s Petition Asks BU to Divest from Gun Manufacturers
Student’s Petition Asks BU to Divest from Gun Manufacturers
Trustee committee chair says University has no investments in the gun industry, and that divestment will be discussed in the fall
A petition with more than 1,000 signatures launched by a Boston University student frustrated over the latest mass shootings advocates for BU to divest its endowment portfolio of civilian gun manufacturers. The petition has caught the attention of University trustees.
Shana Weitzen (Pardee’25) created the online petition shortly after the deadly attacks in Buffalo, N.Y., on May 14 and in Uvalde, Tex., 10 days later. She sent her petition, now with over 1,100 signatures, to the University’s Trustees Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing (ACSRI), which is tasked with recommending socially responsible University investments. Weitzen received a reply promising a formal review.
Richard Reidy (Questrom’82), ACSRI chair, replied via email to Weitzen that BU currently has no investments in civilian gun manufacturers. But that does not mean the trustees cannot invest endowment funds into civilian gun manufacturers in the future. “As a Trustee and Chair of the Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing (ACSRI), I am writing to let you know that it has been formally forwarded to the ACSRI for review,” Reidy wrote to Weitzen. “The ACSRI serves as a standing trustee committee to consider and make recommendations to the Board of Trustees with regard to the investment holdings and policies of the University’s Endowment.”
Weitzen’s petition advocates that BU should “immediately stop investing and divest from civilian gun manufacturers.” BU took a similar action in 2021 when it announced it would divest from the fossil fuel industry amid increasing proof that burning fossil fuels is accelerating damage to the environment.
Substantive discussions among the ACSRI members regarding divestment cannot happen until the fall, when the students who serve on the committee start their semester, Reidy wrote, since the BU Student Government and Graduate Student Organization must select or reaffirm their representatives who serve on the ACSRI.
“There’s no reason for a university to be investing [in] something that causes this much harm in a country,” Weitzen says. “There’s so many other, better things that they could be investing money into.”
BU is not alone in facing calls to adjust its financial holdings following the latest mass shootings. In a statement last week, state treasurer Deborah Goldberg called on the Massachusetts legislature to pass a law divesting approximately $2 million from the commonwealth’s pension fund in civilian gun manufacturers. She issued the same appeal in 2018 after a gunman killed 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Fla.
This is not the first time the issue has formally come before BU’s trustees. Following the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut that killed 20 children and 6 adults, in 2014 the ACSRI recommended an official divestment until effective regulatory controls would reduce the “unacceptable level of social harm.”
But the 14-member Board of Trustees Executive Committee decided against following that recommendation, instead establishing three standards for when the trustees should divest from firms in the future. Among the requirements were that any negative consequences of their decision “including the risk of censorship of competing views within the University or the risk that the wisdom of the decision will fail to withstand the test of time,” are outweighed by the importance of reducing social harm.
Weitzen, who holds executive-board positions on two student clubs, says she gathered support for her petition by contacting alumni and making Instagram graphics. After launching the petition on May 25, she passed 1,000 signatures five days later, then reached out to the ACSRI.
Dhruv Kapadia (CAS’24), BU’s Student Government president for the upcoming academic year, says the newly elected executive board fully supports an official divestment policy from civilian firearm manufacturers and the banning of future investments. Deadly shootings on school grounds have not stopped, he says, and BU must choose its financial associations carefully.
“This is an issue that’s been plaguing American educational institutions for the last three decades,” Kapadia says. “If you had asked me this question five years ago, I would have given you the same answer.”
The ACSRI’s recommendation in 2014 argued for a divestment until “a level of state and/or federal regulatory control over firearm sale and/or ownership is achieved that merits repeal of this policy.” Since none of the endowment is currently invested in civilian gun production, Weitzen’s petition is focused on barring any future ventures in a formal policy.
“I don’t think a college, a place of higher education, is something that should be invested in the gun industry,” Weitzen says.
There are more than 11,000 international students studying at BU, Kapadia says, and he’s spoken with some, who say living in a society with repeated mass shootings is completely strange to them.
“To them, it’s like, incredibly dystopian,” Kapadia says. “It’s such a foreign concept of having to be concerned about an active shooter coming into your place of education.”
Weitzen, who is majoring in international relations, with a minor in gender studies, says she is glad the committee is considering her divestment advocacy. “As a student, I want to make my university better than I found it,” she says. “I do really love BU, but it’s not without its flaws.”
Meantime, her petition continues to rack up signatures. In September, she hopes to keep the pressure on BU’s trustees to follow through this time around.
“As soon as it starts, first day, I will be back emailing them, knocking on the doors,” Weitzen says. “One Silber Way, I will be there.”
We should probably have BU police carry tasers only.
that sounds silly. ban the sale of ar-15’s to anyone under 25, but don’t take arms from law enforcement.
Even those fellas down in Uvalde, TX ? They certainly weren’t using them
I note that the petition at present only seeks BU students to sign. Many faculty and staff members would no doubt sign up if asked. Perhaps a modified version could be launched.
Everyone needs to remember that the successful campaign asking BU to divest from fossil fuel companies embraced the entire BU community, not just students.
As a former student at Sandy Hook Elementary School and a current BU Staff Member, I would sign this petition if it were open to the rest of the community (although, I do hope to also be a student in the Fall, so I could sign it then!). I recently contacted my financial advisor to ensure that my IRA holdings were also not invested in any consumer firearms companies.