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Student group presents divestment proposal to Board of Trustees

Published: Monday, January 28, 2013

Updated: Monday, January 28, 2013 01:01

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Zhuangchen Zhou / The Tufts Daily

Boston-area students stood with pro-divestment signs outside a Jan. 24 meeting between Tufts Divest For Our Future and the Board of Trustees at the Tufts School of Dental Medicine campus.

 

Four members of the student group Tufts Divest for Our Future met last week with the Board of Trustees at the Tufts School of Dental Medicine’s Boston campus to present a proposal for the university to divest from fossil fuels. 

A crowd of about 40 students stood with pro-divestment signs outside the meeting, Tufts Divest Co-Founder Emily Edgerly said. The students came from various Boston area schools, including Brandeis University, Boston University, Harvard University and Tufts, according to Tufts Divest Co-Founder Anna Lello-Smith, a junior.

“Students in Boston don’t just want their university to divest, but they want other universities to divest, so we are as committed to supporting other universities as much our own,” Edgerly, a sophomore, said. “I think it showed the board that there aren’t just four of us that care, but that a lot of people care.”

Executive Vice President Patricia Campbell said the Board of Trustees considered the presentation to be an impressive and passionate representation of the proposal calling for Tufts and other universities to divest from any possible fossil fuel investments. However, she said the board still has questions. 

“[The trustees] are not going to quickly take any action that might have the potential to have an adverse effect,” she said. “There will be ongoing conversation among the trustees about this issue, and I wouldn’t want to predict, but there certainly are serious questions that would need to be answered about how practical this is.”

Campbell said she admired the students’ passion and appreciated their effort in bringing attention to this issue. She added that, according to an investment committee policy, the board is required to invest the endowment in the interest of finding the best return on those investments. 

Campbell explained that while Tufts has participated in divestment movements in the past, this measure is somewhat different from the efforts in South Africa and Darfur.

“They were a much more single-focused kind of thing,” she said. “It was easier to identify, for example, what companies were active in South Africa. Fossil fuel investment is a large part of the general financial market, and so many funds may have a small piece that is involved in fossil fuels, so it is just much more complicated to do.”

Tufts Divest has a significant support base among not only students, but also among about two hundred Tufts alumni, Lello-Smith said.

“Some of our alumni supporters have expressed interest in either holding donations or donating to an alternative fund that could be invested upon divestment,” she said.

Tufts Divest has made it clear that it will not be discouraged if the board does not act on its proposal, Edgerly said.

“No matter what the board says, we are going to continue to organize, we are going to continue to gain student power on campus, we are going to increase our visibility and we are going to show the board that we are not going to stop this fight,” she said.

The organization will take alternate methods to put pressure on the board other than direct dialogue if dialogue does not yield the results that it hoped for, Lello-Smith said.

“We have the student power, we are backed by significant entities including [divestment advocacy website] 350.org [and] prominent investors, and there are multiple avenues we can take if the board doesn’t act or if they are too timid to do anything, because we have all this power and we are going to get it done.”

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