Student Activists, Take a Bow! UMass Is First Major Public University to Divest from Fossil Fuels

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Burning Fossil Fuel / J. Michel (aka: Mitch) Carriere

May 25, 2016; Bloomberg

The University of Massachusetts announced yesterday that it would divest from all direct fossil-fuel holdings in its $770 million endowment, held by the nonprofit UMass Foundation. The decision was made by a unanimous vote of the board. This makes it the first major public university to do so. UMass President Marty Meehan, who met with leaders of the UMass Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign even as they were actively protesting and getting arrested on campus, declared his support for this and other endeavors to address climate issues:

This action is consistent with the principles that have guided our university since its Land Grant inception, and reflects our commitment to take on the environmental challenges that confront us all. Important societal change often begins on college campuses, and it often begins with students. I’m proud of the students and the entire University community for putting UMass at the forefront of a vital movement, one that has been important to me throughout our professional life.

“Divesting from investments in any particular sector is not done lightly and we have done so rarely,” said Edward H. D’Alelio, the foundation’s treasurer and investment committee chairman, in a statement. “That we took this step reflects not just our comfort as fiduciaries but the seriousness with which we see climate change.”

This follows the trustees’ December endorsement of the foundation’s decision to divest from all direct holdings in coal companies. At that time, $400,000 of coal-related investments were dropped.—Ruth McCambridge