You may have already heard: Students concerned about climate change are demanding that university endowments divest from fossil fuel companies. A handful of institutions have already committed to divestment, and many others have at least offered compromises.
Now, professors are joining the on-campus divestmentfest. On Sunday, the UC Berkeley Faculty Association urged the committee responsible for managing the University of California’s 10-campus, $91 billion-with-a-B endowment to purge fossil fuels from its portfolio. Also this week Boston University’s faculty circulated a document calling for divestment from oil, coal, and gas corporations; 245 faculty members had put their John Hancock on the petition as of Wednesday, Sept. 10. Academics at Harvard, the University of Washington, and other schools are signing on to the movement as well.
The good news for divestment fans is that these scholars come armed with petitions and academic authority, giving divestment even more cred. It’s also heartening that The Wall Street Journal is taking notice, covering the intensification [paywall] of what it calls the “showdown between activists and schools” centered in California. Still, on-campus divestment haters are gonna hate:
Divestment is “really tricky” for university officers who are under pressure to deliver returns, said Charles Skorina, a San Francisco recruiter for university endowments who is the managing partner of Charles A. Skorina & Co. “Are you going to save the world or screw students that depend on endowment earnings to fund scholarships?”
Look, we’re not saying that stripping students of scholarships is good, either. However, Skorina oversimplifies university divestment as an either-or proposition. Plus, in a world where money rules — for worse or for worse — divestment is an important strategy among many in the struggle for a stable climate. And now that the scholarly community is catching on, the divestment crusade might just score an A.