Time is running out to substantively address the climate crisis driven by fossil fuels. We, as students, parents of students and alumni of the University, have a responsibility to demand that the University address this emergency by fully and swiftly removing all coal, oil and natural gas investments from our endowment.
The most recent United Nations report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change spells it out clearly — the effects of climate change will only become more devastating the longer institutions delay radical change. We have no time left to listen, deliberate and wait. The urgency of this moment requires decisive, immediate action that must start with the businesses that profit the most from inaction — fossil fuel companies.
Despite students’ repeated calls for disclosure, the University Investment Management Company — a private investment firm responsible for investing our endowment — has still not released details of its fossil fuel investment portfolio. We acknowledge the progress of the University in the creation of its sustainability plan. Central to this plan are the commitments to being carbon neutral by 2030 and fossil-fuel free by 2050. However, investing in fossil fuels undermines the values of these commitments. We must respect the work of students and community members — who have engaged in years of advocacy and gathered thousands of supporters — over the private interests that dominate our University leadership.
Over 1,300 organizations recognize the untenable nature of long-term fossil fuel investments and have already committed to divestment, including educational institutions like Harvard University, Georgetown University and the entire University of California system. A BlackRock study commissioned by the The Teachers' Retirement System of the City of New York which surveyed 13 organizations even found that “divested portfolios outperformed their benchmarks.”
Fiscal support of fossil fuels also neglects the outsized impact that this emergency has on marginalized groups. Celebrating our diverse community, commitment to innovation and “universal dedication to excellence” is meaningless while the University financially backs an industry which threatens our collective future and disproportionately affects disenfranchised members, particularly those in the Charlottesville community. It is time for the University to heed the enduring student advocacy for divestment, and uphold our commitment to being “great and good” with the 14.5 billion dollars in our endowment and long term funds.
The University has a responsibility to manage its endowment for the benefit of future generations. Continued investment in the fossil fuel industry — the leading contributor of the climate crisis — contradicts this obligation. The University’s values cannot be met until we align our monetary investments with the pillars of “honor, integrity, trust and respect”.
The coalition of community members and groups that compose DivestUVA now demand the following —
- We demand full disclosure of the fossil fuel investments made with the University’s endowment by Dec. 1, 2021.
- We demand a commitment to full divestment from companies whose primary source of profit is fossil fuel extraction and refinement by Jan. 1, 2022.
- We demand total divestment from fossil fuel companies by Dec. 31, 2022.
It is time for the University’s administration — particularly University President Jim Ryan and the Board of Visitors — to issue a public call for UVIMCO to disclose and divest. It is time to decide, as community members and as a University, if we will be on the right side of history or contribute to the problem. So, to our community we ask — what legacy do we want our institution to leave?
Students, parents, faculty and alumni, join us in our pledge to make no donations to the University without full divestment, and learn more about divestment at our political education event in Nau Hall Room 101 at 7 PM, Oct. 21 2021.
In solidarity with past, present and future students,
Divest UVA is a student-led coalition urging that the University extend its environmental commitments beyond operational sustainability to the University endowment.