Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Students to keep pushing Board of Trustees, UMass Foundation to divest from fossil fuels

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(Kristen Richard/ Daily Collegian)

(Kristen Richard/ Daily Collegian)

University of Massachusetts community members are planning on lobbying the Board of Trustees to continue divesting from the fossil fuel industry at its meeting at UMass Lowell on Wednesday.

Last week, the UMass Foundation, which oversees the University’s $770 million in endowment assets, made headlines when it announced it would divest from direct investments in coal companies. The decision was made based on recommendations from the Foundation’s Socially Responsible Investing Advisory Committee, who met with the student-led UMass Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign and researched the issue for several months, according to a news release.

In March, the UMass Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign submitted a formal petition to the Foundation, per the release.

“While we commend the board for listening to the voices of the UMass community and taking a crucial step in the right direction, we must emphasize that coal divestment is only the beginning,” the UMass Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign said in a statement.

UMass student Kristie Herman is on the agenda to speak in front of the board on Wednesday on behalf of the UMass Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign. The agenda also calls for a vote on the board’s statement on fossil fuel divestment.

Nina Hazelton, who graduated from UMass in the spring and still works with Divest UMass, said students, faculty and alumni would also be at the gathering to lobby board members before and after the meeting.

Hazelton said the campaign seeks to get the University to divest from the top 200 publicly traded fossil fuel companies in order to make a political statement, as well as to stigmatize these companies.

The UMass Foundation said its decision to divest is “consistent with the leading role the University has played in addressing climate change through research, academic programs, student engagement and its own energy policies” in a statement.

“If you are going to make that claim and build your image around that, your actions as a University need to be in line with what you want your image to be,” Hazelton said. “We see the investment in these industries as being socially immoral, environmentally immoral and on all levels unjust. We see the need for UMass to divest because we can’t continue our dependence on these destructive and oppressive industries.”

She added that divesting in the fossil fuel industry – which she called a “dying industry” – would be a fiscally smart decision for the University.

Investing in renewable energy industries will provide a higher return over the long run, according to Hazelton.

She also said many schools choose to divest from coal first because it doesn’t have a high return. UMass Foundation spokesperson Pamela Jonah said in an email that direct coal investments represented a small portion of the Foundation’s investment portfolio. Charlie Pagnam, executive vice president of the UMass Foundation announced that investments in coal totaled $400,000 at an administration and finance committee meeting on Dec. 2, according to the statement from UMass Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign. The meeting’s minutes were not available online at the time of publishing.

Hazelton estimated that the UMass Foundation has $3 million directly invested in fossil fuels, although said it was difficult to be exact because of the complexity of the portfolio.

Anthony Rentsch can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Anthony_Rentsch.

1 Comment

One Response to “Students to keep pushing Board of Trustees, UMass Foundation to divest from fossil fuels”

  1. Bob on December 8th, 2015 5:40 pm

    Hopefully the UMASS Foundation listens to the financial planning experts, not a handful of malcontents.

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