The U has invested countless resources in the past few years to reduce its carbon footprint and now the Academic Senate will decide if it should divest some of those funds.
Next Monday, May 2, the senate will meet at 3 p.m. in the Health Sciences Education Building to discuss and vote on several issues. One of those is a resolution about retracting funding from fossil fuels or investing more into alternative energies.
Last spring, two committees were formed to research and report about the issue. Mike Cooper, a professor of finance and the chair of the Responsible Investment Committee, was charged with the task of looking at the costs of renewable energy investments. The Reinvestment Dialogue Committee was responsible for providing information about divesting and fostering dialogue for the topic concerning the U.
After Cooper’s team researched the costs and benefits, the committee of five was split on the issue. Three people voted against and two voted in favor. They were unanimous in all other statements, such as allocating more funding for alternative energy research on campus and encouraging faculty and staff to divest with personal funds.
Bill Johnson, professor in geology and president of the Academic Senate, is not certain which way the vote will swing, but he recognizes there are more than monetary costs.
“If we vote to divest, we will be making a political statement,” Johnson said. “Making a political statement has the potential to create negative feelings in the part of the legislature towards the [U].”
The Reinvestment Dialogue Committee, headed by Joan Gregory, librarian for the Eccles Health Sciences Library, wrote a resolution in support of divestment, suggesting that the U “strategically divest its endowment from fossil fuel-intensive funds within five years and reinvest in socially responsible and climate responsible ways.” The resolution states that divestment is an effective and appropriate step for the U.
The Academic Senate has about 120 members, including ASUU members and student senators. Johnson suggests that anyone interested in the issue attend and participate because while they cannot vote, they can influence their senator to vote in a particular way.
Johnson said divestment is not something the senate would typically vote on because it is not an academic issue, but because of interest, and a petition signed by faculty last year, they decided to take it on.
“For wrestling with issues that stay in the campus, the senate is the best body available to come to some degree of consent,” Johnson said. “If we want to determine an institutional response to climate change, you need something like the senate.”