UMass Pledges To Advocate For Divestment From Fossil Fuels

Responding to student activists who say divestment from fossil fuel companies would address global climate change, administrators at the University of Massachusetts are pledging to advocate for divestment.

Last year, the University of Massachusetts Foundation, Inc., the nonprofit that manages the university’s $770 million endowment, dropped its stocks in big coal, but student activists are now demanding divestment from all fossil fuels.

On Tuesday, fifteen students were arrested after they refused to end a sit-in at a UMass Amherst administration building.

Related Series: The Cost Of Divestment

In a statement, UMass President Marty Meehan said he broadly shares the goals that student activists have been advocating for.

“Throughout my career, I have stood for environmental progress and reducing the carbon footprint,” said Meehan, a former congressman.

Skeptics, though, argue that divestment from fossil fuels is only a symbolic move that would accomplish little.

“We need to focus on actions that are going to make a real difference as opposed to actions that may feel good or look good but have little real-world impact,” said Robert Stavins, director of Harvard’s Environmental Economics Program.

So far, only a handful of schools, including Hampshire College and Syracuse, have pledged to fully divest from fossil fuels. Yale announced yesterday that it would partially divest.

UPDATE Wednesday, April 15 9:52: On Wednesday night, 19 more student protesters were arrested. Members of the group Divest UMass say their demands were not met after administrators pledged to support a plan to divest from fossil fuels.

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[Cross-posted at On Campus: the WGBH News Higher Education Blog]

Kirk Carapezza

Kirk Carapezza is the lead reporter for On Campus. Kirk has reported for Wisconsin Public Radio in Madison, Wis., and Vermont Public Radio in Montpelier, Vt. He's been a writer and producer at WBUR in Boston; a teacher and coach at Nativity Preparatory School in New Bedford, Mass.; a Fenway Park tour guide; and a tourist abroad.

Kirk received his B.A. from the College of the Holy Cross and earned his M.S. from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. When he's not reporting or editing stories on campus, you can find him posting K's on the Wall at Fenway.