Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Friday, February 22, 2019

Week-long divestment push ends with rally on the quad

Week-long divestment push ends with rally on the quad

AU students involved in Fossil Free AU protest in favor of divestment.

Correction appended

About 50 students from Fossil Free AU rallied on campus Nov. 15 to urge the Board of Trustees to remove fossil fuel investments from the University endowment. The rally coincided with the late fall meeting of the Board of Trustees, which was considering a related issue.

The board met Nov. 14-15 to decide whether or not to establish an advisory committee on socially responsible investing, a potential precursor to divestment. It has not yet announced whether it will form the committee.

The students began protesting on the main quad before marching to the area in front of the tunnel to raise signs with “Divest AU” written on them in front of the Butler Boardroom windows. The Board was meeting in the room at the time.

“The rally [was] meant to put pressure on the board to act, and it is a demonstration of the broad campus support of this campaign,” said Deirdre Shelly, a junior in the School of International Service and active member of Fossil Free AU.

Friday’s rally was the last of several events the divestment coalition held this week. Students in Fossil Free AU used the majority of a Nov. 14 town hall with President Neil Kerwin and Board of Trustees Chairman Jeff Sine to discuss the issue. Fossil Free AU held the last of three open forums on Nov. 13 to answer questions the Board posed in a May memo.

Both Kerwin and Sine were receptive but noncommittal at the town hall on whether they would support divestment.

“I haven’t made a decision on what the appropriate course of action is for the institution,” Kerwin said. “We’re all prepared to be educated, we’re all prepared to be convinced and we’re all prepared to keep an open mind.”

He also cautioned against a hasty decision. The soonest that an advisory committee could recommend a course of action on fossil fuel divestment to the Board of Trustees would be at the February board meeting, Student Government Comptroller Ben Johnson said.

Kerwin said he wasn’t sure an informed decision could be made by then.

Johnson, who attended the Nov. 14 meeting of the Board Finance and Investment Committee, supports divestment, but was concerned by the board’s decision to go with an advisory committee.

“They’ll be open to the committee, since it’s their idea,” Johnson said. “But I think it’s dangerously close to being a stall tactic.”

Correction: A previous version of this article said Deirdre Shelly was a senior, not junior.

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