Duke not spurning tobacco funds
Duke's entrenchment in tobacco money has varied over the past century of University history.
The Duke family, whose fortune originated from dominance of the cigarette market, founded today's East Campus-then the Woman's College for Trinity College-with tobacco money, and the names of other local tobacco magnates, such as Julian Carr, still dot campus.
The funding of the University's endowment, however, was transferred from profits from the family's hydroelectric company, said University Archivist Tim Pyatt, Trinity '81.
And although some schools across the country have decided to stop accepting all funding from corporate tobacco companies, Duke's tobacco roots still exist, as the University continues to allow research-directed grants.
The most notable of these donations was for the Center for Nicotine and Smoking Cessation Research at the Duke University Medical Center.
A donation from tobacco giant Philip Morris USA in June 2004 gave Duke $15 million in three annual $5-million installments, according to a news release.
James Siedow, vice provost for research and a professor of biology, wrote in an e-mail that the majority of the center's funding is directed towards several grants for Jed Rose, director of the Duke Nicotine Research Program, a research professor of biological psychiatry and co-creator of the nicotine patch.
"Duke medical school accepts sponsored research agreements from a considerable number of corporate sponsors," Dr. Sanders Williams, vice chancellor for academic affairs at the Medical Center, wrote in an e-mail. "We view this as an important part of our research mission to address unmet medical needs on behalf of our patients and society."
He added that the majority of the funding for the center comes from government sponsorship.
Both Williams and Bill Phelps, a spokesperson for Philip Morris, emphasized that the money was given without caveats that could influence the findings. For example, Philip Morris cannot veto publication of research from the center.
"We give grants to universities for a variety of reasons," Phelps said. "Some [grants] in the past have been for smoking- and health-related research. We have given a grant to Duke... that is related to our program which is called cessation."
However, in November, the University of Texas at Austin's McCombs School of Business announced it would no longer accept money from Altria, Philip Morris USA's parent company. The New York Times reported that administrators grew uncomfortable when the corporation requested an additional role in student events.
But at Tobacco Belt institutions such as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, relaxed attitudes still prevail.
Though UNC's career center's Web site lists Philip Morris as a main contributor to the service, Mike McFarland, director of university communications, said funding from tobacco companies to the university is minimal.
To the north, a $25-million donation from Philip Morris to the University of Virginia last year included a $5-million gift to strengthen the relationship between UVa's McIntire School of Commerce and the corporation, according to a press release.
UVa representatives did not return requests for comment on the nature and purpose of forging such a bond.
Siedow said no money from Philip Morris is transferred towards any undergraduate programs or events at Duke.
The absence of University endowment investments in corporate tobacco and Philip Morris' lack of involvement in the undergraduate world occurs as a matter of practice rather than because of a steadfast rule, said John Burness, senior vice president for public affairs and government relations.
"It has to do with not constraining the investment flexibility of the University with the endowment," he said. "The other thing is, sometimes, [a rule]'s almost impossible to enforce."
In the past, there have been bans on investments due to political strife, but those policies are enacted by the Board of Trustees. This includes a prohibition on investments in companies doing business with Sudan approved this weekend.
Pyatt said the Board has been receptive to students who proved that investments could potentially cause harm.
Phelps, however, said Philip Morris is assisting its patrons in whatever way possible.
"We think that if smoking is addictive and causes serious issues... we can be helpful in that role of acquittance," he said.