New York University has made history as being one of the largest private universities in the United States to divest its portfolio from dirty energy. It’s a decision that shifted a portion of the school’s overall $5 billion endowment and resulted from increased student activism and pressure on the school, the Guardian reported.
As of 2014, the school had $139 million, or about 4% of its endowment, tied up in dirty energy sources, per university disclosures. The investment shift will move away from the top 200 coal, oil, and natural gas companies in which the school has some financial stake.
“New York University commits to avoid any direct investments in any company whose primary business is the exploration or extraction of fossil fuels, including all forms of coal, oil, and natural gas, and not to renew or seek out any dedicated private funds whose primary aim is to invest in the exploration or extraction of fossil fuels,” said William R. Berkley, chair of NYU’s board of trustees, in an August letter to a student group that was shared by the Guardian.
This isn’t the university’s first attempt to become more green. It has pledged to reach net zero carbon pollution by 2040 and has made efforts to decrease energy expenditures from buildings and its food sector.
Student activists have been fighting for divestment at NYU since at least 2004. Groups like the Sunrise Movement have met with the board of trustees several times and submitted numerous petitions signed by young people to support the divestment movement.
“The board was very pleased with the tenor of its conversations with the students and the letter arose from those exchanges,” NYU spokesperson Joseph Tirella told the Guardian. “The University is glad to know the students were also pleased by the outcome of those conversations and by the letter.”
Student activists are hopeful that NYU’s divestment decision will propel a new wave of activism in colleges and universities across the country. Student activists have gone as far as banning corporate dirty energy recruiters on campuses, and other civic organizations like churches have also pledged their support for divestment.
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