Students from top universities push for ‘legal imperative’ of fossil fuel disinvestment

Student-led divestment campaigns at five top US universities on Wednesday used a tactic that has proven effective at some other schools: They accuse their institutions of breaking the law by investing in the climate-devastating fossil fuel industry. Complaints filed.

“We are calling on our attorney general to do the right thing and force our schools to divest.”

With the help of the Climate Defense Project (CDP), students Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Princeton, stanford, VanderbiltAnd Yale Massachusetts, New Jersey, California, Tennessee and Connecticut—filed complaints with the attorney generals of their states.

“By filing these complaints, students and alumni of these institutions are making it clear that our universities have not only a moral responsibility, but a legal imperative to cut financial ties with the fossil fuel industry and its exploitative practices. ” said Miguel Moravec, a Ph.D. students at Vanderbilt, in a statement. “We are calling on our attorney general to do the right thing and force our schools to divest.”

Students supported by alumni, campus groups, climate scientists, community members, elected officials, environmental organizations and professors accused their universities of violating the Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act (UPMIFA), which the law is In every state except Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia, and the US Virgin Islands.

“The law can be a powerful ally in fighting climate change, but only if people are actually held accountable for abiding by it,” said CDP staff attorney Alex Marquardt. “Universities have a duty to promote the public interest in exchange for their tax-exempt charitable status, and this fee is inconsistent with fossil fuel investment.”

Although Yale announced some investment changes last year, students are calling for a complete disinvestment from fossil fuels. as student organizer Molly Weiner said Washington Post: “I’m here studying environmental policy, yet my school is contributing to the climate crisis… It’s really terrible.”

The complaints argue that in addition to violating the UPMIFA requirement, nonprofits such as targeted universities have invested with the idea for their “charitable purposes”, schools “by investing in financially risky fossil fuel stocks”. have also violated their duty of care, those who have underperformed for years and are currently at risk of a general decline in value.”

“The legal standards that guide judicial conduct are actually quite clear, but they are underestimated,” said CDP’s Ted Hamilton. “We hope the attorney general will take this evidence and take into account the endowment managers when they profit from unethical business activities.”

Student complaints further highlight potential conflicts of interest. Noting that “at five of our schools, our chancellors, board members, trustees, faculty, and donors are financially linked to the fossil fuel industry,” Yale student Avery Long said it was “unacceptable that our decisions Manufacturers are actively profiting from climate “destruction.”

The new filing follows the earlier framework Used Through disinvestment campaigns at Boston College, Cornell, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Marquette and the University of New Mexico. Following campaigners’ actions, both Cornell and Harvard committed to divestment from fossil fuels.

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The organizers of the five new schools—disappointed by the administration’s response to their demands—hope that this approach will work for them.

Vanderbilt student Aditi Lele said, “Every time we ask them about fossil fuel disinvestment, they mention other actions they are taking to make the campus green, such as carbon offsets. But they fail to address the actual disinvestment.” said Guardian, “Everything they do is just greenwashing by mentioning those other actions and then using it as a justification for showing off enough.”

Princeton graduate Anna Leibovitz said that “in the face of the overwhelming nature of the climate crisis, we seek the levers of power and change to which we have access.”

“Our universities are among the world’s wealthiest and most prestigious institutions of higher education, and their investments in the fossil fuel industry – an industry whose actions threaten the health and future of students and the planet as a whole – have little to do with complexity. Neither is there the climate crisis,” he continued. “Thus, our campaigns are coming together and collectively calling for an end to fossil fuel investment in higher education and the world at large.”

The endowments of the five schools collectively represent more than $155 billion in assets under management. Pointing out that “over the past decade, 1,485 institutions have publicly committed to at least some form of fossil fuel divestment, representing an unprecedented $39.2 trillion in assets under management,” MIT student Ellie Rabenold said “it is time” to follow his lead.

In line with the new filing, student campaigners at MIT began a sit-in on Wednesday. Jess Cohen, a junior who participated in the demonstration, told common dreams That “MIT Divest is sitting outside our president’s office today to protest MIT’s inaction on the climate.”

“The members of the MIT Divest filed a legal complaint against our school because we think MIT is clearly better off collaborating with bad faith actors,” Cohen said. “Time and time again, MIT has said that they choose to engage and use that as an excuse to forgive fossil fuel companies and their actions. This is the last time our administration wakes up and takes responsibility. “

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