Fossil Free AU pledges to sustain movement towards divestment

Fossil Free AU is excited to get back to work this semester on the campus-wide fossil fuel divestment campaign.

Last spring, students, faculty and alumni united to ask the Board of Trustees to immediately freeze all new investments in fossil fuel companies and divest the endowment completely from these companies in the next five years. In only a few months, the AU community embraced the idea of fossil fuel divestment.

Students expressed their support with a unanimous resolution in the Undergraduate Senate and a student referendum passed with 80 percent of the vote. Faculty members personally endorsed the campaign and the Faculty Senate unanimously passed a resolution asking the Board to consider the issue. “Fifty Days of Fossil Free AU” highlighted alumni who have pledged to withhold donations until AU committed to complete fossil fuel divestment. Throughout the semester, Fossil Free AU asked to present at the May Board of Trustees meeting and for a vote on a negative screen.

The Board refused to hear directly from Fossil Free AU at the May meeting and neglected to take a vote on divestment; however, Board of Trustees Chairman Jeff Sine did address divestment in a campus-wide memorandum. Fossil Free AU has already addressed many of the questions posed in this memorandum and is prepared to continue this discussion with the campus community. Sine committed the University Finance Office to beginning an inclusive dialogue on divestment in late August.

Because the administration has not fulfilled their commitment, Fossil Free AU will initiate this dialogue through a series of community forums and events using questions posed by the Board as a guide.

The memorandum also presented a mechanism for addressing future investment policies through the creation of a committee on socially responsible investment. While Fossil Free AU recognizes the potential of this committee to establish long-term investment policies, our coalition knows that fossil fuel investments and climate change must be addressed expeditiously. The timeline presented in the administration’s memo does not reflect the urgency of this issue, and immediate action must be taken.

For this reason, Fossil Free AU is making two demands of the Board. First, to allow a formal student-led presentation on fossil fuel divestment at the Nov. 15 Board meeting. Second, for a Board-wide vote at the Feb. 15 meeting to implement a negative screen on fossil fuel investments, and a commitment to full divestment within five years. Fossil Free AU is eager to take constructive action on this issue with the entire AU community.

Kate Brunette is a senior in the School of International Service.

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