AU students began a campaign on Jan. 14 called “Fossil Free AU,” which seeks to cut the University’s investment in fossil fuels, despite both the student group and the University’s uncertainty about the extent of AU’s current investment in the resource.
Nearly 200 universities and colleges, including Harvard University and George Washington University, have launched divestment campaigns, according to the Go Fossil Free website, a national website dedicated to stopping the use of fossil fuels.
The campaign’s coalition consists of AU students, alumni, faculty, community members and existing campus organizations whose goal is to stop the University’s investment in fossil fuels and instead reinvest in sustainable energy.
“Fossil Free AU” lacks a reinvestment plan for the funds currently being used by the University to purchase nonrenewable energy investments and is unsure about how much money is being spent on them, according to Stephen Bronskill, a member of environmental club EcoSense.
AU tracks its endowment in large investments through the S&P 500 index, a benchmark used to assess the overall U.S. stock market, Maralee Csellar, associate director of media relations, said in an email.
The University did not know the exact amount it has invested in fossil fuels as of Jan. 30 but had contacted its investors to verify the number, according to an email from Csellar.
“Fossil Free AU” is trying to prevent future investments in nonrenewable energy through reaching out to the AU community: The campaign hopes to get 600 signatures from students to make a fossil fuels referendum through Student Government, EcoSense President Kate Burnette said.
“I’m really hoping that American University will view divestment,” Duncan Gilchrist, a member of Fossil Free AU, said, “as an opportunity to prove its leadership and dedication to the fight against climate change.”
Staff writer Samantha Hogan contributed to this report.