The University of Winnipeg could become the first Canadian university to jettison its oil and coal assets if the school’s administrators bend to the will of the fossil fuel divestment crowd.
Members of Divest UW, the school’s anti-fossil fuel group, plan to put the screws to administrators during an open house discussion Wednesday, all in hopes of making the University the first school in Canada to rid itself of oil investments.
The group said the open house, which is titled “Divestment as Climate Solution” and led by U-of-W Assistant professor Jobb Arnold, is a “valuable opportunity for students, faculty, and administration to have a meaningful dialogue about the university divesting from fossil fuels.”
Arnold continued: “Climate change is a critical threat to all facets of our collective future,” he said. “We need to act together to end our reliance on fossil fuels … ”
Other members divestment campaigners echoed Arnold’s sentiments.
“We feel like the U-of-W has a good a shot as any university, and maybe even a better shot than others, of seriously considering this and being the first,” Divest UW organizer Andrew Vineberg told reporters.
Vineberg went on to explain how the school’s values, which, according to U-of-W’s strategic directions document, include social justice and environmentalism, run counter to those of the fossil fuel industry,
“Those things are incompatible with the fossil fuel industry … there is just no end to the evidence of that,” Vineberg said.
The University’s relatively small number of fossil fuel assets might actually make it easier for it to abide by the demands made by divestment campaigners. The U-of-W has $2.58 million in oil and coal assets amounting to about 5 percent of its $57.5 million endowment.
The cost for jettisoning oil and coal assets is higher for schools with larger fossil fuel investments, according to research conducted by California Institute of Technology economics professor Bradford Cornell.
Columbia University, MIT, NYU, Yale, and Harvard, for instance, stand to forfeit more than $195 million in investment returns each year if they move to divest, which perhaps is one reason why they have been reticent to purge.
“What we have learned about the small number of schools that have decided to divest is that they didn’t have much in the way of fossil fuel investments to begin with,” Matt Dempsey, a spokesman for DivestmentFacts, told the Daily Caller News Foundation Wednesday.
The types of pledges that U-of-W are likely to adopt are nothing more than ’empty gestures,’ Dempsey added.
DivestUW, for its part, posted a petition on Change.Org, a website giving activists a platform to advance social causes, asking for support in pushing the school to divest. The petition is trying to acquire 100 supporters; as of Wednesday, 98 people have signed on in support.
Vineberg’s group, working alongside U-of-W students’ association, has been pushing divestment for more than a year now, directing their cause through protests and sit down meetings with school administrators.
The University intends on making a final decision in April.
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