U. of C. urged to shed fossil fuels

By LINDSAY WELBERS
Staff Writer

University of Chicago students overwhelmingly voted to encourage the school to remove its investments in companies that profit from fossil fuels and move those investments to greener companies.

Last week, 2,183 students at the university voted on the student government election ballot in favor of the referendum while 714 voted against it.

“What we want is for the university to stop increasing its investments in fossil fuel companies in the short term and within five years divest completely from the companies it is invested in,” said George Abitante, university student and member of UChicago Climate Action Network (UCAN). “This sign of students’ support was a really, really great step in getting there.”

UCAN said moving its investments to companies that produce or profit from green energy like solar panels and wind power, has only a .0044 percent risk to return, making it a safe investment.

UCAN students would like to meet with the board of trustees and President Robert Zimmer to discuss the next steps in moving the university’s investments. So far neither the board, nor Zimmer has replied to UCAN’s requests.

“As a member of the global community the university has a moral obligation to do its part and avoid any investments or actions that are detrimental to its students in general or the world as a whole and we think we can do this without doing harm to the university or the student population,” Abitante said.

Among the students’ biggest hurdles is a lack of information about how much the university has invested in companies whose biggest profits come from fossil fuels.
“It’s really difficult to establish a dialogue until we [have access to that information],” Abitante said. “It’s very one-sided in who has the information.”

The student effort will likely face an uphill battle. The university routinely rejects efforts to tie its portfolio to social justice considerations, citing the university’s tradition of insulating decisions from political pressure of any kind. This position has led to rejection of efforts to compel the university to divest from Sudan and South Africa, among other politically charged areas.

The university did not respond to an interview request by Herald press time.

l.welbers@hpherald.com