Campus activists are howling with indignation as Notre Dame University refuses to purge its fossil fuel assets, even as the school promises to champion diversity as a means to combat “Islamophobia” on campus.
Notre Dame President John Jenkins announced Tuesday that the university will not jettison fossil fuel companies from its investment funds, drawing the ire of student activist groups like We Are 9 and Fossil Free ND.
“Nearly all acknowledge that there is no practical plan by which we could cease using fossil fuels in the immediate future and continue the work of the University,” Jenkins said at a faculty address. “It seems to me at least a practical inconsistency to attempt to stigmatize an industry, as proponents of divestment hope, from which, we admit, we must purchase.”
The university also announced a plan to implement a Comprehensive Sustainability Strategy to address environmental issues.
The plan includes policies to eliminate coal use by 2020; ratcheting down carbon emissions; increasing efforts to improve campus recycling; and promoting courses and research directed at addressing man-made global warming.
Fossil Free ND, a student group pushing fossil fuel divestment, criticized the decision in a press statement, arguing the plan still allows the university to benefit off oil and gas.
“Instead of moving away from fossil fuels, the plan explicitly calls for further investment in natural gas over the next five years,” the statement reads. “Potential renewable resources are relegated to future ‘feasibility studies’ despite calls for renewable energy at Notre Dame across the past decade.”
Many schools have taken to placating campus greens by using a method called the Syracuse model of divestment – wherein institutions divest only direct fossil fuel holdings, not oil assets tied to commingled mutual funds.
The University of Maryland, for instance, decided in June to sell off $70 million in direct fossil fuel assets from its massive $1 billion endowment. The number is paltry, especially when considering the school has no direct investments in coal, tar sands or any companies on the Carbon Underground 200 list, according to the university’s newspaper.
The school gave up essentially no direct fossil fuel holdings, while, at the same time, maintaining more than $70 million of fossil fuel investments in co-mingled funds – funds not impacted by the announcement. The move seems to be working, as most activists appear to be either unaware of the caper or not willing to kick up much dust to criticize it.
Divestment was not the only thing on Jenkins mind.
He also outlined the university’s quest to make the university more diverse, admonishing faculty, staff, and students to avoid the “dark tendencies … toward fear, hatred and violence” promulgated by people who exploit such forces for person gain.
“The call is not simply to tolerate diversity but to embrace sisters and brothers and to strive to build, however imperfectly, a community of love,” he told faculty and staff. “Such a vision is, in the end, the most powerful justification of and motivation for diversity and inclusion that I can imagine. It animates our efforts at Notre Dame.”
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