Dear President Kerwin and the Board of Trustees,
Last semester, American University students joined over 250 campuses in a national movement encouraging colleges and universities to divest their endowments from fossil fuel companies. The undersigned members of the faculty and administration hereby support these students and the Fossil Free AU campaign in their efforts to reaffirm AU’s commitment to sustainability and social responsibility through fossil fuel divestment.
This campaign is an effort to mitigate the growing threat of climate change, the most critical physical and moral issue facing this generation and those to come. The fossil fuel industry has over 2,765 gigatons of carbon in their reserves—roughly five times the amount that is safe to burn. In order to effectively address climate change, we must challenge the fossil fuel companies that continue to develop and operate in an unsustainable way that harms the natural systems on which we rely.
Universities and colleges have a strong record of taking the lead on sustainability issues, and AU is no exception. Our university cannot stand as a leader in environmental protection if it is profiting from irresponsible and dirty investments. As educators and scholars, we approach this movement from diverse academic backgrounds but are united in our conviction that now is the time to stand up to fossil fuel companies. Furthermore, we believe that building momentum at the university level will translate into action at the necessary political, national and international levels.
We understand that a strong and stable university endowment is necessary to provide the best educational opportunities to students and faculty. That being said, we do not believe that AU must choose between its values and its finances. Socially responsible investments are proven to provide comparable returns to a standard portfolio, and it is entirely feasible for the university to maintain the strength of its endowment through sustainable investments.
We support the two-step approach put forth by the Fossil Free AU campaign. First, we ask the Board of Trustees to freeze new investments in fossil fuel companies by implementing a negative screen in the university endowment by the end of the calendar year. Second, we request an official university dialogue on divesting our endowment from current holdings in fossil fuel companies and expanding socially responsible investments.
We trust AU will continue its proud tradition of seeking to bring about positive social change through its finances. It is our sincere hope that AU will join peer institutions and embrace this opportunity to lead the clean energy revolution and ensure that the American dream is, and continues to be, green.