By Rick Seltzer
A revitalized movement pressuring colleges to distance themselves from firearms manufacturers scored a significant victory Tuesday when a high-ranking administrator left St. Thomas University in Florida amid intense pressure over her new seat on a gun company’s board of directors.
Whether colleges are taking action on divesting from firearm stocks is far less apparent than St. Thomas’s staffing move. A college has yet to step up and publicly proclaim a gun divestiture after the Parkland shooting. Most of the country’s wealthiest schools remain loath to discuss their investments. Some colleges have even continued to honor agreements with donors who hold positions at the highest level of the National Rifle Association.
Nonetheless, anecdotal reports from money managers indicate colleges are inquiring about ways to divest from firearms. Interest in divestment has spiked in recent weeks, according to Debashis Chowdhury, president at Canterbury Consulting, an investment advising firm managing about $18 billion of assets for endowments, foundations, health care organizations and families.
Donors and parents were asking colleges about their exposure to gun makers or their policy on investing in them, Chowdhury said. Colleges in turn started inquiring with Canterbury. They were also asking about other companies, such as retailers, that profit from gun sales.
The foundation and endowment leaders appear to have grown more serious about socially responsible investing and environmental, social and governance criteria, Chowdhury said. They were more prepared to start asking questions after the Parkland shooting.
“The reaction led to a call for, at a minimum, greater awareness and, at maximum, action,” Chowdhury said.