May 17 will be a big day in California with regard to the future of tobacco-funded “research” in the state. Not only will the UC Board of Regents debate and possibly vote on a resolution to ban systemwide support of any kind from tobacco companies, Stanford will hold the same debate regarding such a ban at the University level. At Stanford, the President John Hennessy opposes the ban, while School of Medicine Dean Philip Pizzo supports it. Interestingly, Stanford and UC both divested their investments in the industry long ago.
According to the San Jose Mercury News:
“Currently, Stanford’s only recipient of tobacco money is John P. Cooke, director of the medical school’s program in vascular medicine and biology and the vascular biology lab. … Because of the debate over funding, Cooke has agreed to end the grant in June. Tobacco money accounts for about 20% of his research budget, so he’ll trim staff and supplies until other funding comes through. … Supporters of a ban say that if research is strong, someone else will fund it. In fact, Harvard has used its repudiation as a selling point for other donors, they say.”
“Dean Pizzo wrote the medical school to say that he respected the right of individual faculty to make personal choices. The issue is more one of professional ethics than academic freedom. But he added: “In our history, universities have taken stands on important society issues, and the role of tobacco in our society is certainly one such example, and perhaps among the most egregious ones.”