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Monday, April 14, 2014

Seattle University Rejects Divestment From Fossil Fuels

Posted by on Mon, Apr 14, 2014 at 12:34 PM

Slog tipper and former Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn says a group of students at Seattle University are rallying against their college's refusal to divest from fossil fuels today, and you should pay attention. Months of talks between student group Sustainable Student Action and SU's chief financial officer Connie Kanter have apparently gone nowhere. Students had asked that the university's $185 million endowment be divested from major corporations whose business is based on the extraction of hydrocarbons, including Arch Coal, BP, Chevron, Conoco Phillips, Duke Energy, Exxon Mobil, Patriot Coal, and Royal Dutch Shell. But in a February 21 letter (PDF), Kanter dismissed the notion that divesting the university's endowment from fossil fuels would do any good:

Using endowment funds entrusted to us by donors for a purpose other than their original intent is an extraordinary step. As some participants in SSA's recent forum noted, divestment from fossil fuels will neither impact the finances nor change the behavior of affected companies. We believe there are more effective ways to address climate change. For these reasons, we are not prepared to move forward on a feasibility study of divestment from fossil fuel companies.

Harvard University, which has largest college endowment in the country and is under pressure from nearly 100 of its own professors calling for divestment, makes a similar argument.

So does divestment actually work, and could it help stop climate change? South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu thinks so. And according to Eric Hendey, writing for Harvard's own Institute of Politics, "The evidence from South Africa suggests that divestment, while ineffective in a financial sense, can have an impact by shaping public discourse. If universities across the country divested from fossil fuels, this would again be the case."


Comments (8) RSS

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I'd just like to point out that if we properly funded our state colleges, it would reduce the overall financial risk these institutions face and make the decision to divest that much easier.
Posted by Solk512 on April 14, 2014 at 12:52 PM · Report this
rob! 2
Well, you can see how this would be especially problematic for S.U.

Drop the last word from the battle cry "Dump the Fossil Fuels," and there go the Catholic clergy.
Posted by rob! on April 14, 2014 at 12:52 PM · Report this
Hernandez 3
@1 Seattle University is a private college. Still, a good point.
Posted by Hernandez on April 14, 2014 at 1:12 PM · Report this
To quote your own article.... "The evidence from South Africa suggests that divestment, while ***ineffective in a financial sense***, can have an impact by shaping public discourse."

Useless. I don't know why you've been parroting so much crap about divestment lately, Stranger.
Posted by Anonymous Cowar2 on April 14, 2014 at 1:39 PM · Report this
@5: Because it's Ansel, who never lets the facts get in the way of his overwrought opinions.
Posted by bigyaz on April 14, 2014 at 1:44 PM · Report this
rob! 7
Setting snark aside, you can look to the history of disinvestment in South Africa that ended apartheid to see, in large part, how this will evolve.

First off, the knee-jerk response is always (cue whiny voice) "It's tooo harrrrrd! So, so complicated! Mutual funds don't only invest in fossil fuels [apartheid], they also invest in lots of other things that everybody agrees are good!"

Put the pressure on the mutual funds and other mixed investments, and they will take care of their own little corner of the market.

The Koch-suckers at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) will be actively trying to sabotage fossil-fuel divestment, just as they attempted for anti-apartheid divestment. Forewarned is forearmed.……
Posted by rob! on April 14, 2014 at 1:57 PM · Report this
JF 9
I would venture the divestment would run against the School's Investment Policy Statements. Consolidated money like this can't be invested willy nilly and it's certainly not up to one person. A board of individuals representing the university work with Investment Advisors to develop an investment plan that outlines the goals and what they'll invest in to achieve them. It's likely that changing the IPS to exclude specific companies would make achieving those financial goals much more difficult. No advisor worth their weight would ever recommend doing such a thing.
Posted by JF on April 14, 2014 at 2:43 PM · Report this
JF 11
@10 Mutual funds and IPS are two separate things and the rules that regulate the two are completely different. Your homework assignment is to never mention money again and let finances be handled by the grown ups.
Posted by JF on April 15, 2014 at 9:05 AM · Report this

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