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AU trustee responds harshly to student email

Fossil Free AU members received the email from Alan Meltzer

AU trustee responds harshly to student email

AU Board of Trustees member Alan Meltzer responded crudely to members of Fossil Free AU who sent him emails on Feb. 26 demanding consideration of a new chair for the Finance and Investment Committee.

The letters were sent to several individual trustees’ personal emails, including Meltzer, an AU alum and a member of the Finance and Investment Committee. The Eagle obtained Meltzer’s response to six students who emailed him about the petition.  

“...Demand? With an AU education u cannot write your own email,” he wrote to one student who had emailed him a statement from Fossil Free AU.

Members of Fossil Free AU sent emails to individual trustee members in advance of the board’s winter meeting on March 2 and 3. The emails advocated for the appointment of a chairperson on the Finance and Investment Committee who would take action on divestment from oil and gas companies in the University’s endowment. 

Former chair of the Finance and Investment Committee Gary Cohn stepped down from the position following his acceptance of a position with the Trump administration.

“Cohn was the biggest roadblock to divestment at AU, and his departure opens a new door to the path to a truly just and sustainable university,” the description reads on the FFAU Facebook event page calling on students to send the petitions.

The letter writing campaign was an effort to push the board to consider a new chair to replace Cohn and reconsider divestment, John Vodrey, a FFAU member said. 

“We, the student body, demand that the Finance & Investment Committee appoint a new chair who is open to the university divesting its investments in fossil fuel companies from the endowment,” the letter sent to trustees said. 

Following Meltzer’s email response to students, more community members sent letters to trustees on the Finance and Investment Committee, Vodrey said.  

“We sent over 1,300 letters to Board of Trustee members on the Finance and Investment Committee. The campaign obviously got their attention because we were offered to meet with them finally,” Vodrey said. “We have been trying since the beginning of the semester to set up a meeting with members of the administration and they put us off. But after this letter writing campaign, they organized a meeting.” 

Meltzer hung up the phone when The Eagle called him for comment on this story. 

David Taylor, the Secretary of the Board of Trustees, said that Meltzer would remain on the board. 

“He is a loyal alumnus, a strong AU supporter, and has been a dedicated trustee for the past 10 years,” Taylor said. “He regrets any heated exchange that took place recently.”

Fossil Free AU, a student-run campaign to demand the University divest its endowment from investments in coal and gas companies, started in 2012. A year later, the campaign received support from student government and a student referendum supporting divestment from fossil fuels passed with 79 percent of the vote.

Despite continued activism and outreach with the board, divestment was overturned in 2014. The Finance and Investment committee voted “no” on divestment, citing conflicts with legal responsibility to the University.

Instead the board established a “Green Investment Fund,” where donors could contribute to a green fund with no investments in oil and gas industries.

ksaltzman@theeagleonline.com


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