Wednesday 26th October 2016                 Change text size:

Brown University’s vote against coal divestment sparks outrage in local community

André Mouraux via flickr

Teachers, students and parents have criticised Brown University president Christina Paxson’s decision to rule out the institution’s divestment from coal stocks.

In a letter to students, Paxson wrote, “The existence of social harm is a necessary but not sufficient rationale for Brown to divest.

At the end of the meeting, it became clear that we didn’t need to vote. The support for divestiture just wasn’t there.”

Paxson partly justified the decision by saying that the coal shares represented a small part of the school’s portfolio, that coal is a cheap and reliable source of energy for many of the world’s poorest people and that a move to divest would not affect the profits of any firms. Some of the motivations sounded similar to those tabled by Harvard president Drew Faust, who rejected fossil fuels divestment requests earlier this month.

Students had previously called on Brown to drop its holdings in the “filthy 15”, some of the US largest coal companies.

According to the Brown Daily Herald, around 52% of students supported the coal divestment campaign and many said they were very disappointed by their university’s decision.

The newspaper also gathered a number of letters from various members of the community, who criticised the lack of action on coal divestment.

Susan Izeman wrote, “Paxson’s letter to the community acknowledges the serious harm coal use does to our planet, yet she refuses to take the step of divestiture. She has missed an opportunity to continue Brown’s leadership in social, political and environmental arenas. As a third generation alum and Brown parent, I am deeply disappointed.”

Meanwhile, Solomon Goldstein-Rose added, “I hope my fellow students and the entire Brown community make known to our president their anger at this decision and their determination to continue the fight for divestment.

“As Brown’s essential purpose is the development of young people, our administrators cannot claim to be leaders when they have just betrayed the generation they are here to serve.”

Further reading:

UK universities have £5.2bn invested in the fossil fuel industry, report says

Fossil fuel divestment is neither ‘warranted or wise’, says Harvard president

Students criticise Harvard’s ‘false neutrality’ over fossil fuel divestment

Fighting climate change is a moral obligation, Seattle mayor tells Harvard president

Canadian university ranking put on spot over ethical investment

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