University Senate supports divestment from fossil fuels

Photo by Natalie Battaglia // Flickr

Campus environmentalists rejoiced after Loyola’s University Senate came to an agreement in regard to the university’s investment policies, specifically divesting from fossil fuels.

Divestment, the act of removing stocks from a corporation based on ethical obligations, has been a hot topic on campus since fall 2012.

The Senate, which voted 15-1, came to a resolution Friday that is a big step for supporters of the campaign. It recommends Loyola immediately freeze any new investment in fossil fuel companies and divest from direct ownership within 18 months.  The decision also includes a five-year plan to divest from any commingled funds that include fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds.

However, divestment is not the end point. The resolution also recommends the university explore more socially responsible investments in renewable energy technology and focus on efforts that attempt to positively influence corporate behavior, also known as shareholder advocacy.

Prior to the Senate meeting, theology professors Aana Marie Vigen and Sandra Sullivan-Dunbar submitted a letter signed by more than 200 Loyola faculty members in support of divestment and shareholder advocacy. 

The letter cites Loyola as a leader in sustainability and a strong ablity to positively influence corporations, stressing that the university’s actions will carry symbolic power and moral authority, which are needed to bring about substantive change.

For Vigen, divestment is a way to say “no” to certain practices and policies that are not conducive to human flourishing, as well as the well-being of the planet.

“The sustainable investment portfolio, the shareholder advocacy, etc. [are] saying ‘yes this aligns with our mission, vision and ethic, and we reject the companies that are stiff-necked about grappling and acknowledging climate change, that are actively working against transitioning the economy to more renewable sources’,” said Vigen.

Loyola’s Student Environmental Alliance (SEA) initially presented the plan to student government back in 2013. At the time, the Unified Student Government Association, now the Student Government of Loyola Chicago (SGLC), requested more input from both students and faculty.

Jared Brocklehurst, SGLC’s executive sustainability officer and an executive board member of SEA, said the faculty letter gave the extra push needed to get the Senate on board.

“Their passion for it was really, really what we needed as a support system to help us move through, and they got in return this passionate student organization that has quite a reputation on campus, so it was really fun to connect with them. They offered such great input,” said Brocklehurst, a 22-year-old environmental science major.

The decision to divest is now in the hands of University President Michael J. Garazini, S.J.

SEA President Kelly Hof has worked with Brocklehurst on the campaign since the start and said she is ecstatic that it is finally making momentum.

“Now that it’s been passed through the University Senate, we’re hoping that the conversation continues and that we’re here to support the president as the recommendation goes to him,” said the 21-year-old environmental studies major.

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