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October 23, 1997

Vote to eliminate CREF's tobacco stocks, Assembly urges Pitt participants

Some people would walk a mile for a Camel (assuming their hearts and lungs could handle the trip).

Faculty Assembly merely wants Pitt employees who participate in the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association-College Retirement Equities Fund pension plan to open their mail from TIAA-CREF this month — and then complete and return an enclosed ballot, calling on CREF to rid its portfolio of stock in tobacco companies.

The measure to eliminate tobacco stocks from CREF is called the Koop-Feingold proposal, after two of the measure's chief supporters: former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop and Eugene Feingold, who chairs a group called Educators for Tobacco-Free Investments by TIAA-CREF.

Pitt TIAA-CREF members are among 1.9 million nationwide who should receive ballots this month, asking them to vote for or against Koop-Feingold. Ballot results will be announced Nov. 10 at TIAA-CREF's annual meeting in New York City.

TIAA-CREF officials say divestiture is unnecessary because participants have the option of investing in the CREF Social Choice Account, which does not include tobacco company stocks.

But Pitt's Faculty Assembly voted unanimously Oct. 7 to endorse a resolution urging TIAA-CREF participants to support Koop-Feingold.

"If you don't want to endorse it [the proposal] from a moral or a health standpoint, you can consider it from a financial standpoint," said dental school professor Thomas Zullo, who proposed the Assembly resolution. Given the millions of dollars that tobacco companies have spent recently on lawsuit settlements — and the possibility of similar losses in the future — it's probably financially prudent to sell off tobacco-related investments, Zullo said.

His fellow Assembly members didn't argue. They voted unanimously for Zullo's resolution almost without comment, prompting linguistics professor Christina Bratt Paulston to look around and conclude: "Not a single smoker in the bunch." "They're all outside the front door," suggested Ellen Gay Detlefsen, of the School of Information Sciences.

— Bruce Steele

Filed under: Feature,Volume 30 Issue 5

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