Universities Reject Funding From Tobacco Companies

“Just because it’s green, we don’t have to take it,” said Paula Murray, associate dean at the University of Texas’ McCombs School of Business, to The New York Times.

Murray was referring to her school’s recent decision to cut off all funding from Philip Morris, a cigarette manufacturer that has donated over $308,500 to business schools like McCombs since 1989.

The University of Texas (UT) is just one of the many universities across the United States that have recently deemed contributions from tobacco companies “tainted.” On ethical grounds, these schools have decided to ban tobacco companies from funding university development and research.

Philip Morris, which has partnered with UT for many years, had been pressing for a more active role in the McCombs community. Although they already had a program set up to recruit business students as employees, they had asked for more interaction with the students. In December, the McCombs School decided to ban funding for student organizations and faculty research from companies that manufacture cigarettes.

“What it came down to for us was the ethical dimension,” said Dean of the McCombs School of Business George W. Gau, to The New York Times. “The leadership of the school felt that in some sense it was tainted money, that it is money gotten from a product that is significantly harming people.”

Other schools that have banned cigarette company funds include the University of North Carolina, the Universities of Iowa and Arizona, Louisiana State, Emory, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, and Ohio State.

At Stanford, a ban on contributions from cigarette companies was considered, but the idea was dropped after numerous protests from faculty researchers who feared they would not be able to support their research without those funds.

Robert Tisch, late chairman of the Loews Corporation, which produces five brands of cigarettes, including Newport, donated $10 million to fund cancer research at Duke University in 2006.

“The benevolence of the Preston Robert Tisch family will have an enormous impact upon the search for new brain tumor treatments,” Victor Dzau, president and CEO of the Duke University Health System said according to a Duke University news release. “Their contribution will enable Duke to recruit and retain the brightest researchers and will create tremendous promise for all cancer research at Duke.”

Just a year earlier, Duke accepted $15 million from cigarette company Philip Morris to fund the development of the new Comprehensive Cancer Center, which aimed to research ways to help people quit smoking.

Some questioned the tobacco company’s interest in funding a center for smoking cessation and worried that giving Phillip Morris ties to a cancer research center would allow them to tamper with the research.

“You know that saying ‘Bombing for peace is like f—ing for chastity’? Well funding cancer research with cigarette money is kind of like that,” said first-year biology and pre-veterinary major Grace Normann. “It’s paradoxical and unethical.”

“The argument for rejecting funding is that the tobacco industry has a 50-plus-year history of a corrupting influence on medical research,” said Dr. Michael J. Thun, the chief of epidemiological research at the American Cancer Society, to The New York Times.

Yet Duke remained insistent that the university’s scientists alone will control the direction of the research. They retain the right to publish results without having Philip Morris approve them.

“We were cautious in considering whether to accept this grant or not. We would not want to be part of any whitewashed effort,” said R. Sanders Williams, dean of the Duke medical school.

RJ Reynolds BuildingThe American Legacy Foundation, a non-profit organization that aims to help smokers quit, provides grants to universities that wish to do research without accepting additional funding from tobacco companies. The foundation has granted over 300 grants, valued at over $150 million. to support research in tobacco prevention and related topics over the years.

“It’s one of those times where you ask ‘where do you draw the line?'” Director of Student Finances Anthony Gurley said. “If you decide not to accept money from tobacco companies, do you accept money from pharmaceutical companies or chemical companies?”

Ethical dilemmas such as this occur in many forms at colleges and universities across the country. At Guilford, Coke products were replaced by Pepsi products, though many students argued that this was a useless swap because Pepsi, like Coke, has been criticized for similar environmental and human rights violations.

The school has worked to accommodate the concerns of its students by considering ethical standards in their re-bidding of the dining contract. The current provider, Sodexho USA, has long been subject to ethical complaints.

“We make changes based on the responses of the students, and if it goes against something the college stands for,” said Dean for Campus Life Aaron Fetrow, “like the switch from Coke to Pepsi, or when students decided they didn’t want Starbucks so we made the switch to Green Mountain Coffee. We look for (solutions) that don’t harm the global environment and the world.”

Source: Lauren Newmyer, The Guilfordian

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