Student-led divestment campaigns at universities pursue fossil fuel investments

On Wednesday, student-led campaigns for fossil fuel divestment filed complaints with the Connecticut Attorney General against Yale University, the Massachusetts Attorney General against the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the New Jersey Attorney General against Princeton University, the Attorney General of California against Stanford University. and the Tennessee Attorney General v. Vanderbilt University to investigate continued investments in the fossil fuel sector by school administrators.

The complaints allege that universities continued to invest in the fossil fuel industry violates the Uniform Law for the Prudent Management of Institutional Funds that each of their respective states has passed. The complaints say that under the Uniform Prudent Institutional Funds Act, universities are required to invest in consideration of their charitable purpose which distinguishes nonprofit institutions from other investors.

Campaigns argue that investing in fossil fuels is in stark contradiction to the educational goals and individual missions of universities due to climate degradation, consequential damage to ecological and human health, and damage to environmental equity. and social damage caused by the fossil fuel industry. .

Additionally, the complaints indicate that the investment in the fossil fuel industry is negligent and violates universities’ fiduciary duty under the Uniform Prudent Institutional Funds Management Act. Specifically, the complaints allege that the financial risk associated with fossil fuels due to oil and gas’s underperformance and volatility relative to other industries over the past 10 years constitutes a breach of due diligence. under the Uniform Prudent Institutional Funds Management Act.

In addition, the complaints highlight potential conflicts of interest between university boards and the fossil fuel industry and argue that “[i]It is unacceptable that our decision makers are actively profiting from the destruction of the climate.

Divestment campaigns argue that the legal standards guiding fiduciary conduct are clear, but they have been under-enforced and demand that attorneys general in each respective state hold university endowment managers accountable when they profit from “unethical business activities.” from the fossil fuel industry.

According to a press release, the student-led divestment campaigns have garnered more than 10,000 signatures from prominent professors, community members, climate scientists, elected officials, student organizations, alumni, and government officials. environmental organizations frustrated with insufficient climate action by universities. crisis.

Student-led campaigns are represented by the Climate Defense Project.

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