The executive committee of Boston University’s Board of Trustees voted not to pre-emptively restrict the university from investing in civilian gun manufacturers, saying those companies did not meet the board’s criteria for a level of social harm justifying divestment. Those criteria include a stipulation that the harm caused by the industry in question should clearly outweigh any “negative consequences” of divestment—including “censorship of competing views within the University.”
The university does not currently hold any investments in the firearms industry, but the trustees’ decision keeps the door open to such investments in the future.
The committee’s decision is also a rejection of a petition started last June by student Shana Weitzen urging the university to prohibit new investments in the firearms industry in light of a rise in mass shootings and gun violence. Weitzen initially sent the petition to the board’s Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing (ACSRI), which voted to recommend noninvestment in gun manufacturers to the executive committee. At the time of the vote, the petition had more than 1,200 signatures.
The decision comes after a month marred by a series of mass shootings, including one at Michigan State University in which three students were killed.
“I am sure that this outcome is disappointing to [some], but I can report that there was thoughtful discussion of the issue and an appreciation for the harm caused by gun violence,” said Richard Reidy, a member of the board and chair of the ACSRI.
It’s the second time Boston University’s trustees have rejected calls to divest from gun manufacturers. The first, in 2015, was prompted by the public outcry after the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school shooting.
In 2021, the university announced it would divest from the $200 billion fossil fuel industry, joining a growing list of higher education institutions that have deemed gas and oil companies unethical investments. Higher education institutions’ ties to the comparatively smaller $20 billion civilian firearm industry have also come under increased scrutiny in recent years, though firearm divestment movements have been less successful.