Syracuse University will be removing its $1.2 billion endowment from direct investments in companies dealing in fossil fuels — the biggest university to do so after a two-year campaign by students. It aims to make investments instead in clean energy technology like solar energy, biofuels, and advanced recycling.
The university said in a statement that it will:
[N]ot directly invest in publicly traded companies whose primary business is extraction of fossil fuels and will direct its external investment managers to take every step possible to prohibit investments in these public companies as well.
Chancellor Kent Syverud was quoted by Dave Tobin of Syracuse.com:
Syracuse has a long record of supporting responsible environmental stewardship and good corporate citizenship, and we want to continue that record. Formalizing our commitment to not invest directly in fossil fuels is one more way we do that.
Students formed a group called Divest SU to lead the two-year campaign. According to the NY Times, students staged an 18-day sit-in in November to persuade administration on this issue and others. Student campaigner Jonathan Schmidt said:
It is very exciting to see Syracuse taking this step, but we acknowledge that there is still a lot to do, both with ensuring that Syracuse fully divests from fossil fuels and that it takes on other social justice issues on campus.
Last fall more than 50 SU student activist groups joined to form The General Body, writes Sarah Bufkin of Bustle, to fight for increased administrative transparency, more respect for diversity, and more support for students and staff. It wrote a 43-page list of grievances, with the fossil fuel investments included. This goal has been reached, but the students still aren’t entirely happy with the school’s environmental policies.
350.org, an environmental group, is responsible for a campaign asking institutions to divest themselves of oil, coal, and gas companies. Syracuse University is following the Guardian Media Group, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and the British Medical Association, according to the Guardian.
Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.org, said:
This is one of America’s great universities. It’s a great tribute to the students who made real sacrifices to stand up to power and to an administration that can see where the future lies.
Other universities to make the same move include Stanford, Maine, Glasgow, and New York’s New School. In April, Harvard students will be hosting a week of activism to persuade their university to do the same.