Fossil fuel divestment crashes and burns at the University of Denver

The students at the University of Denver are pretty angry right about now. They’re so upset about the election of Donald Trump and his climate science policies (none of which have even been drafted for legislation or regulations yet) that they announced on Sunday that they would be engaging in a walk-out for “climate justice.”

Students and faculty at the University of Denver walked out of classes on Monday to protest the Trump administration’s climate change denial, organizers said.

More than 100 students joined the protest outside the Driscoll Student Center starting at 11:30 Monday.

The walkout was lead by the student organization Divest DU, which calls on Chancellor Chopp and the Board of Trustees to divest the university’s endowment from the fossil fuel industry in order to combat climate change and protect all of our futures,” organizers said in a statement Sunday.

Note the emphasized sentence in the past paragraph. The sponsors were the student organization DivestDU. They’ve been pushing to force the university to fully divest their endowment and assets from all forms of fossil fuels.

All I can say is that if they thought the weekend went badly, they’re really not going to like the annoucement that came out from the university administration last night. The decision is in on divestment and, well… it ain’t gonna happen, kids. (Divestment Facts)

After months of meetings and deliberation, the University of Denver (DU) has officially rejected fossil fuel divestment.

Instead, University of Denver will adopt a “formal policy addressing climate change, developing partnerships to address issues of climate change and sustainable development through its academic efforts in research, teaching and service, and ensuring that all academic and administrative units embrace efforts to foster sustainability.”

After DivestDU made their initial demands, the university administration dutifully took up the task of forming a panel to examine the question. They put up a web site where students could communicate with them and keep up to date on the proceedings. This was also the place where the announcement was released yesterday in a downloadable pdf.

The lengthy statement from the University in denying the divestment request was fairly standard fare, sticking to the tradition established by other schools which chose the same path. They try very hard to have their cake and eat it too by talking the talk of the protesters and agreeing with them in term of how important it was to battle global warming and fight against fossil fuels. But they go on to declare that this just isn’t a good way to do it and it’s not fair to everyone. (Emphasis added)

Regarding divestment, the Board adopted the task force recommendation that divestment in fossil fuel companies, or any other industry, would not be an effective means of mitigating global warming nor would it be consistent with the endowment’s long-term purpose to provide enduring benefit to present and future students, faculty, staff and other stakeholders. Rather, the University of Denver’s greatest ability to mitigate climate change and foster a sustainable future lies in deploying its core competencies: education, research and the ability to foster informed community discourse and in accelerating its sustainability in its operations.

A strategy of industry stigmatization drives a wedge between the University of Denver and the fossil fuel companies that represent an important part of the economic base of Colorado and the nation. Equally important, stigmatizing fossil fuel companies inherently involves stigmatization of their employees as well. As a general matter, the panel believes that stigmatizing individuals based upon a career choice to work for an employer engaged in a lawful enterprise is inappropriate.

Even if you only read the emphasized portions of the excerpt you can see the general theme emerging and the almost shocking amount of common sense the panel is attempting to gently impart to the students. People who go to work in a lawful, profitable enterprise should not be ostracized by the community and, further, divesting isn’t going to have any impact on the industry anyway. What they don’t go into great detail about is the fact that they really need to keep showing a profit for their endowment and the energy industry is a proven producer of solid returns.

There’s a certain amount of hypocrisy in their answer, but at least they arrived at the correct choice. In doing so they join the ranks of many other schools such as the University of Pennsylvania, Notre Dame, NYU, Cornell and many, many others. In fact, there are almost no schools with significant endowments who have chosen to divest. Perhaps one of these days the protesters will begin to get the message.