Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Thursday, January 17, 2019

Divestment struck down

Board of Trustees votes against divestment but plans to create "Green Investment Fund."


AU’s Board of Trustees announced on Nov. 21 the University will not divest from fossil fuels, despite years of student campaigning and a Student Government referendum that passed in overwhelming support for divestment.

Chairman of the Board of Trustees Jeff Sine and President Neil Kerwin delivered the verdict in front of a packed crowd of fossil fuel divestment supporters and other AU community members at Kay Spiritual Life Center. While the board will not divest outright from fossil fuels, Sine said part of the University’s endowment will be invested into sources of renewable energy through the creation of a “Green Investment Fund.” 

Fossil Free AU, the club that advocated for divestment, protested the Board’s decision during public comment. Members of the club stood up together and took turns volleying stern words at Kerwin and Sine for close to 30 minutes.

“I feel like today we’re seeing some of the worst of our school’s leadership,” Chelsea Smart, a sophomore in the School of Communication, said. 

Kerwin said he was not surprised by the negative reaction, while Sine tried to explain why the Board arrived at their decision.

A report from AU’s endowment advisors Cambridge Associates warned divestment from fossil fuel investments could lead to a $1.1 million increase in University investment management fees. This increase would double the current management fee and may put the University in a situation where it violates a D.C. law that holds the University to a fiduciary duty, according to student trustee Joe Ste. Marie.

After a dozen or more Fossil Free AU members spoke out against the decision — raising financial, environmental and personal concerns — they marched out of Kay chanting together.

Fossil Free AU members started their day early Friday, protesting in Mary Graydon Center as members of the Board of Trustees filed out of their breakfast meeting.

In 2013, students passed an SG referendum to divest from fossil fuels with 79 percent support. Fossil Free AU has campaigned for divestment since the year of the referendum.

AU SG President Sophia Wirth said she was “deeply saddened” by the Board’s decision.

“I hope that the [Green Investment Fund] will show them that divestment can work without diminishing the endowment,” she said.

For more on the Board's decision and student response, check out the Dec. 5 edition of The Eagle.