USG passes legislation encouraging Tulane to divest from fossil fuels

On Tuesday, Tulane Undergraduate Student Government passed legislation that calls on the University to divest funds from fossil fuel companies.

The debate around this resolution, which was co-authored by Senators Jesse Mathias and Josh Rosenbaum, lasted around 40 minutes and led to a 27-6-1 vote in favor.   

A significant part of this resolution was based on a referendum in Spring 2016 of around 2,100 students which led to a 54 percent to 28 percent result in support of divestment. 

“If this were to pass it would say students support it, which is in fact what they say,” Senator Rebecca Lederkramer said during the senate discussion.

Much of the debate focused on the student body’s interest in divesting.

“I think that what pleased me the most, in a sort of more objective sense, was that people in the senate were vocal and proactive about saying that they were willing to support fossil fuel divestment, personal interest in the issue aside, because it was representative of what the student body felt,” Noa Elliott, director of the Sustainability Committee, said after the meeting.

Some of the issues brought up during the discussion were the possible effects it would have on students looking to join the fossil fuel industry and the worry that companies affiliated with the fossil fuel industry would stop recruiting from Tulane.

Another point of issue was economics. While the current investment Tulane has in the fossil fuel industry is undisclosed, many in USG and the community fear that divesting could be financially dangerous for the university.

The resolution “… Calls upon the Board of Administrator of Tulane University, and specifically the Endowment Management Committee, to: freeze all new investment in fossil fuels including coal, gas, and oil companies, sell direct holdings in these companies as expeditiously as possible, divest within five years from direct ownership and from any commingled funds, including public equities and corporate bonds, and encourages to invest this money in Green Energy Portfolios in the affected communities in order to promote sustainable growth.”

The last facet of this resolution was amended to add the word “encourages” and to broaden the areas of investment from the local New Orleans economy to “effective communities.”  Some further explanation of some divestment ideals in the last request were also removed.

The resolution also “… Urges President Michael Fitts to publicly support divestment in solidarity with this body and the majority of Tulane University undergraduate students.”

“I was really thrilled to have such an active discussion about divestment, and I’m pretty thrilled to have such a convincing vote in favor of this legislation,” Mathias said.

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