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Student Groups From 30 Colleges Join in Call for Divestment

Climate Justice at Boston College joined with students, various organizations, and alumni from 29 other colleges in the Atlantic Coast and Big Ten conferences to release a joint statement calling for divestment from fossil fuels on Tuesday. 

The letter demands that universities immediately freeze any new direct investments of fossil fuels, that they divest from direct holdings by 2025, and that they achieve full divestment by 2030.

“This is just part of our continual, elevated calls for divestment and demonstrating that more and more students and universities are not only interested in this, but want to push for it,” said Kyle Rosenthal, member of CJBC and CSOM ’21. “[We’re] looking forward to kind of using this as a jumping off point to continue our conversations around divestment and climate justice issues on our campus.” 

Rosenthal, who spearheaded the coalition alongside CJBC, co-wrote the letter with other groups in the coalition.

While BC keeps its investments private, it has opposed previous student demands for divestment. Senior Associate Director of Communications Ed Hayward declined to comment on the recent letter.

CJBC also announced that over student groups across the thirty universities as well as athletes, alumni, and faculty from every college in the ACC have now joined together in the ACC Climate Justice Coalition, calling on colleges in the ACC to divest from fossil fuels and other “systems of oppression.”

“[W]e recognize the power of our institutions to provide a valuable education and opportunities for success,” the letter reads. “However, we also recognize that our institutions have had profound devastating consequences in our local communities as well as around the world through the present and looming climate crisis.”

Although BC has cited Catholic values as central to its decision-making, the University rejected the Vatican’s call on all Catholics to divest from companies and industries engaged in activities “harmful to human or social ecology” and the environment. BC said in July that it welcomes the Vatican’s document calling for divestment but as a private institution, BC’s decisions on investment and governance are made by University leadership and the Board of Trustees.

Students have recently called attention to the subject of divestment, including through protests in response to the proposal of funding from the Charles Koch Foundation for a security studies program housed in the Political Science Department.

Armani Arellano, a student at Florida State University who works to push FSU to transition to renewable energy including through divestment in his capacity as a leadership intern at Environment Florida, is one of the letter’s signatories.  

“I thought it would be a powerful statement to send a unified call for divestment to all the ACC schools,” Arellano said in an email to The Heights. “I think it highlights the power of our schools as institutions of change, and I think the competitive aspect of the sports world should be extended to the environmental arena, fighting for our better future.” 

Grace Jennings, a student at Duke University and vice president of Duke Climate Coalition, said the organization recognizes the negative effects Duke has caused on the local community through investing in fossil fuels.

“Signing this petition is a declaration of our commitment to fostering a better relationship with the people who have been negatively affected by the wake of Duke’s influence through divestment,” she said in a Facebook message to The Heights. “We believe that coming face to face with the ugly truths in our university’s administration and financial investments is a vital step towards shifting the kind of impact we want Duke to have on its greater community.”

The joint statement, addressed to endowment managers, trustees, and administrators of the ACC, called upon the universities and the NCAA to evaluate the ethical implications of their endowments. The letter called for each institution to divest from areas that do not align with the values of students, staff, and alumni and to invest instead in areas that provide benefits for all communities. 

“We also expect immediate steps for greater transparency and accountability, including conducting full audits to expose the percentage of the endowment in the aforementioned industries and the creation of socially responsible investment committees involving students,” the release said.

While the ACC coalition calls for action by the ACC and Big Ten institutions specifically, it also said it encourages every university to take “swift action to achieve climate justice,” and halt sports until action is taken.

“We call on the entire ACC to divest from fossil fuels and systems of oppression while reinvesting in our communities,” CJBC wrote in a Facebook post with the announcement. 

The letter calls on universities to reevaluate investments in industries of exploitation and those that perpetuate environmental and racial injustice, including private prisons, Puerto Rican debt, weapons manufacturers, mining, and those that exploit Indigenous land.

“Recognizing the power and influence that sports have in our society as well as the opportunity the pandemic has offered to reimagine sports and better utilize athletes’ and teams’ platforms for good, we know that the ACC can be the conference that leads the way, but it is up to all of our universities to take action,” Rosenthal said.

CJBC also released a pledge on Tuesday calling on the Class of 2021 to refrain from donating to the University until it divests. 

“Due to the current financial state of the fossil fuel industry, it would be both careless and wasteful to donate to our university when our hard-earned money will soon be swallowed up by an endowment that invests disproportionately in a failing fossil fuel industry,” the petition reads.

The pledge was created in response to an email BC sent to the senior class asking for contributions through donations or through products and services for sale, including face masks, that BC would in turn record as a donation. 

Featured Image by Rachel Spector / ACC Climate Justice Coalition

September 13, 2020