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Row between students and board at University of Mary Washington over fossil fuel divestment



Campaigners from DivestUMW have loudly asked the University of Mary Washington’s (UNW) governing body to drop investment in dirty fossil fuels but the university has so far said the divestment option is not viable.

The UMW based in Fredericksburg, Virginia US, has so far rejected calls for divestment from companies blamed for worsening climate change and being financially risky, on the grounds it wants to keep tuition fees low and aims to maximise profits from its investments.

After meeting with students, UMW board of visitors, Holly Cuellar said, “While we understand and appreciate the sentiment of the DivestUMW group, the UMW Board of Visitors and the Foundation Board remain focused on prudently maximising investments to support our donors’ intent to bolster scholarships and programs that enhance the student learning experience.

“Assets managed by the university’s investment firm are part of a portfolio instead of individual stocks. Both boards believe it is in the best interest of the university to continue with this practice.”

The claim has been challenged by student campaigners, who reminded the school the fossil fuels divestment movement is gaining momentum in the US, similarly to what happened with South African companies during the years of apartheid.

DivestUMW member Sofia Dimick said, “At the end of the day, they money we’re paying to this school goes to ensure our future. The fact that the school invests in fossil fuels puts that future in danger.”

The group has said it has no intention to stop and will look into further discussion with the university.

The fossil-free movement has already many educational and religious supporters in the US, with Stanford University and the World Council of Churches (WCC) among others announcing plans to make their investment portfolios cleaner.

In the UK, the University of Glasgow and London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) have so far agreed on reviewing the matter.


Further reading:

Desmond Tutu: divest from fossil fuels firms in ‘apartheid-style’ boycott

Divestment: Stanford to shift investments in coal towards ‘sustainable’ solutions

US academics: fossil fuel divestment reduces long-term financial risks

Fossil fuel divestment campaigns can help ‘stigmatise’ industry

University of Glasgow advisers suggest total divestment from fossil fuels within 10 years


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