DU Administration and the Board of Trustees say no to divestment in fossil fuels

On January 24th, 2017, University of Denver Chancellor Rebecca Chopp and the Board of Trustees announced that they will not divest from fossil fuels as a way to fight climate change. The Divest DU movement, which started about three years ago, used public rallies, social media campaigns, and on-school events to put pressure on the administration and investor to make a positive move to divest.

Specifically, the organization states that, “University of Denver students, faculty, and alumni have been demanding that our institution align its investment practices with its mission to be a “great private University dedicated to the public good.”

The organization believes that it’s immoral for the school to be priding itself in environmental sustainability while “it profits from climate change destruction,” the page states.

After roughly three years of work, the organization finally got the board to create a Task Force to investigate the possibility of divesting and holding a final vote. Danny Brown, a former external coordinator for the organization, said that he wasn’t surprised by the verdict of the board stating “it wasn’t at the top of their agenda.”

The Task Force had this to say after investigating the divestment possibility:

“The task force found, and the board agreed, that divestment in fossil fuel companies, or any other industry would not be an effective means of mitigating global warming nor would it be consistent with the endowment’s long term purpose to provide enduring benefit to present and future students, faculty, staff, and other stakeholders.”

Photo by Will Moss, Denver coal train,

Photo by Will Moss, Denver coal train, Thursday at 6:15pm

In summary, the board chose to keep relationships intact that they feel are necessary in keeping current student and stakeholder opportunities in place. Jack, a student at DU, believes investment in fossil fuels is wrong, but understands the position of the investors. “Once I heard the response from the administration I understood that the relationships they’ve forged with certain companies are important for students and alumni in seeking opportunities.” However, he went on to say that he hopes the administration follows through with sustainability pledges.

Although the board said no to divestment, they alternatively created a set of actions to improve the sustainability agenda on campus which include:

  • Establish a revolving “green fund” to investigate new efforts related to sustainability in the operations of the University. The University will create this fund with an initial $5 million and will look for donor support to increase this fund.
  • Further invest in the University sustainability efforts, both financially and in terms of human capital. This will include new organizational structures and reporting
  • Work with the Board of Trustees and investment managers to make available an alternative type of investment vehicle that may offer donors the ability to have their contributions invested in a manner that aligns with their social objectives regarding sustainability

After the administration and Board of Trustees released their response, Divest DU was not satisfied with the result saying, “as student leaders at DU, we are disappointed by their lack of leadership and inability to recognize that inaction in the face of climate crisis is complicity.” In addition, the organization does not feel as though the sustainability agenda fulfills the goals of their campaign.

solar2

Photo by Will Moss, Iliff School solar, Monday at 2:30pm

Gunnar Solberg, a former employee for ARE Solar, also did not think the school’s decision aligned with the value or goals of the movement. “The school is setting aside funds for sustainability but at the same time contributing to the problem of climate change with their investments.” He goes on to say that if the school recognized and understood climate change for what it is, then the clear solution would be divestment.

The outcome was not what Divest DU had hoped for, but their movement should prove that students who believe strongly in any issue, can work together and create awareness among the people that control the decisions made here at the University of Denver.

The process was a long one but, “students led this campaign from the beginning and propelled divestment to the highest decision making board at the University because as young people we know that our futures are at stake.”

In a final statement DU Divest had this to say:

“We will keep fighting for divestment with the understanding that under President Trump, the empowerment of the fossil fuel industry will lead to violence against our climate that will be felt by future generations in decades to come. We hold a vision of a just and sustainable world that we will not give up.”

 

Interviewees

Danny Brown

Danny Brown, Senior, Former External Coordinator for Divest DU

 

jack

Jack Quinn, Senior

 

gunnar

Gunnar Solberg, Senior Former ARE Solar Employee

One Response to DU Administration and the Board of Trustees say no to divestment in fossil fuels

  • Matt Stallone says:

    Hey Will,

    Matt here from the other section of Christof’s class. Really enjoyed your story about Divest DU, I know a little about the organization from a previous class. It’s sad to see our University show little to no care about the state our environment. Now that a certain you-know-who is president it feels like major corporations can get away with anything. You have a lot of good quotes here that really tell the side of the students and Divest DU members. You also have a lot of good quotes from the board, it would be really nice to actually know which companies DU is investing in but I doubt we will ever learn more about that. You have a couple of good pictures here as well, I really like the one of the moving train. It has good depth of field and has great focus for a shot taken while moving.

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