Anti-tobacco resolution snuffed

After weeks of debating whether to pass a resolution urging the University Foundation to divest itself of tobacco interests, the Associated Students Governmental Affairs Committee decided instead to ask the A.S. president simply to write a letter.

President Michael Dailey will draft a letter to the foundation and bring it back to the GAC. In the meantime, the resolution has been tabled.

Bill Jones, Chico State University’s vice president for business and finance, came to the March 29 meeting to explain how the investments work. The University Foundation, which holds endowments and scholarships, realizes an average annual yield of 8 to 9 percent from quarterly dividends and the sale of stocks. Jones said one-quarter of 1 percent of the foundation’s investments are held in tobacco stocks, a significant part of which is in Japanese bonds. Their value is about $50,000.

He said those stocks are bought through the foundation’s participation in the Common Fund, a mutual fund set up by the Ford Foundation to help public entities invest. “It would be a little difficult to take them out of the portfolio,” Jones said.

Committee members disagreed over whether the resolution, which had been drafted by A.S. Commissioner of Environmental Affairs Annie Sherman, should “urge” or instead “recommend” that the foundation divest itself of tobacco stocks.

Mario Sagastume, A.S. commissioner of activity fee, said he is no fan of tobacco companies, but he’s not sure divesting on moral grounds is more important than turning a profit that will benefit students. He also questioned whether socially responsible investments (SRIs) are as profitable as traditional plans.

The resolution would have pointed out how tobacco companies exploit workers and market to children in other countries, hurting the economy and public health.

Dailey said he will draft a heartfelt letter intended to raise awareness of the foundation’s board without sounding accusatory or antagonistic.

The tobacco divestment campaign is part of a nationwide movement that is sweeping college campuses with the help of an organization that is funded in part by government and health-related grants.