Officials reject fossil fuel divestment

GW will not divest from its holdings in fossil fuels, a top University official confirmed Thursday.

Ann McCorvey, the deputy executive vice president and treasurer, and Meghan Chapple, the director of the office of sustainability, told Fossil Free GW members Frank Fritz and Nikolas Michael of this decision in a private meeting according to a press release. The pro-divestment activist group announced the decision Thursday.

“The administration believes students are incorrect in their assessment the unprecedented threat to human survival posed by climate change requires bold action and a reorientation away from destructive fossil fuels towards a more just and equitable future,” Fritz said.

McCorvey said in an email statement that divestment is not part of GW’s investment strategy, but maintaining a sustainable endowment profile is a priority for the University, shown by the fact that GW’s endowment manager is part of the UN Principles for Responsible Investment initiative. The University outsourced the management of its roughly $1.7 billion endowment to an outside firm in 2014.

“The university does make sustainable investments as part of its investment practices, and in its operations, teaching, and research,” McCorvey said. “As part of the endowment profile, GW is investing in promising sustainable industries of the future.”

Chapple said the University is committed to other green initiatives, like neutralizing its greenhouse gas emissions by 2040, offering courses in sustainability and supporting green programs on campus.

“GW now receives 50 percent of its electricity from renewable sources and invests in its students as agents of change for the future of public policy, engineering, business, health and international affairs,” Chapple said.

The decision comes on the heels of a year-long debate on the University’s investments. More than 70 percent of students who voted in last year’s Student Association elections supported divestment from fossil fuels.

Student groups across the country have advocated for their colleges to withdraw their fossil fuel investments, including a successful campaign at Stanford University in 2014.

University officials have historically declined to provide details on GW’s investment portfolio. The investments make up a portion of the University’s roughly $1.7 billion endowment, which helps to fund scholarships, endowed professors and other programs.

One candidate for SA president this year, Erika Feinman, lists divestment as one of her priorities in her platform. A townhall on sustainability is scheduled for SA candidates Thursday night.

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