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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, April 15, 2024

Op-ed: An uphill battle in the fight for fossil fuel divestment at Tufts

Tufts Climate Action, supported by the Tufts community, filed a legal complaint to continue the battle of fossil fuel divestment.

For over a decade, the Tufts community has called for the university’s divestment from fossil fuels. For over a decade, we have met with administrators, hosted sit-ins and rallies and unanimously voted for a TCU Senate resolution calling for divestment. But even today, an estimated $90+ million of our tuition still lines the pockets of fossil fuel billionaires. All the while, Tufts prides itself on its standing as a progressive institution that prioritizes students’ voices and our ability to ask bold questions. It highlights its work in “creating a sustainable path to a brighter future.” Today, we ask this bold question: How is that possible while Tufts actively funds the destruction of our planet, fueling ecological disasters and massive injustice? Sometimes, this work feels like pedaling a bike we didn’t realize was bolted to the ground.

The formal legal action that we, Tufts Climate Action, took on Monday is another attempt to ask Tufts: Will you listen before it’s too late? Our argument in this complaint is based on the Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act, a law implemented in 49 states, including Massachusetts. Under this act, nonprofit institutions such as Tufts are required to “consider the[ir] charitable purposes” and make investments with such consideration in mind.

Tufts’ mission statement establishes that the university is “dedicated to effective stewardship of our resources to create and sustain an environment that prepares to launch all our students into the world ready to chart a course for success.” By fueling greenhouse gas emissions, can Tufts “prepare” us for a world that could be lost in a few decades by their own actions? When worrying about the hundreds of thousands of species going extinct each year, can students “chart a course for success?” How can Tufts purport to fulfill such values while investing in processes that destroy the environment and poison human health?  

Yet, our determination for a better university remains. And we aren’t the first to fight for our voices to be heard: From protesting the Marcos regime until it withdrew funds from The Fletcher School, to divesting from South African apartheid, to the current campaign to cut ties with Israel’s government, the Tufts community has organized successful movements towards an equitable, sustainable future time and again. The bike isn’t stationary, we’ve just been pedaling uphill. We move it slowly — but surely — through the collective action of our community.

And it’s not just Tufts students. Just last year, students from five colleges — Yale, Princeton, MIT, Stanford and Vanderbilt — filed complaints against their respective university administrations calling for full divestment from fossil fuels; Harvard and New York University have also separately won divestment campaigns on their respective campuses.

TCA has collaborated and built coalitions with fellow students across state and national lines. Alongside concerned students from the University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania State, Pomona College and Washington University in St. Louis, we are once again standing up and advocating for more sustainable academic and global communities. Through our respective complaints, we ask these universities to practice what they preach. We ask them to commit to divestment from the fossil fuel industry, to offer clear, binding benchmarks towards it. Time is running out, and it is running out quickly. We will push the bike by hand if we have to. With tens of thousands of hands, moving one bike up the hill can’t be so hard.