In an effort to pressure President Derek C. Bok and University officials into rethinking their investment policy, students at the School of Public Health have launched a campaign of radio spots calling on Harvard to halt all investment in the tobacco industry.
Currently airing on student-run WHRB-FM, the 30-second commercial argues that Harvard has been irresponsible by contributing to "an industry that markets death and disease to Blacks, women, the poor and third-world countries."
"Smoking is the number one cause of preventable disease in the United States," said Philip Huang of the Harvard Public Health Students for Social Responsibility. "Every year 390,000 people die from smoking. It is responsible for more deaths a year than AIDS, crack, heroin, cocaine, alcohol, car accidents, fire and murder combined."
While Huang said his group had asked to meet with Bok to discuss tobacco investments, Kaim F. Lalji of the University's Advisory Comittiee on Shareholder Responsibility (ACSR) said that the request was declined because Harvard does not currently hold any stock in tobacco companies.
But he said the University's holdings fluctuate on a day-to-day basis and that nothing prevents it from investing in tobacco in the future.
According to last year's financial report, as of June 30, 1989, Harvard owned owned almost $60 million worth of Philip Morris Co. and U.S. Tobacco stock.
In addition, Harvard is a member of a limited partnership managed by the Wall Street firm of Kohlberg, Kravis and Roberts which in 1988 staged a $24.3 billion buyout of RJR-Nabisco, a major tobacco firm.
"If they don't own any stock, it is for purely economic reasons, because they don't believe that can make any money at the time," Huang said.
Lalji said that the ACSRT will probably issue a statement on Monday asking the University to prohibit direct investments in tobacco companies.
"Harvard may not own any stock now, but it is free to buy some at anytime," said Lalji. "We want to keep it from happening in the future. Harvard has a powerful name and can send a powerful message."