U students join nat’l push for fossil fuel divestment

by Hailey Colwell


As the ice begins to melt on the University of Minnesota campus, a number of students gear up for renewing their campaign against fossil fuel.

Almost 200 U.S. colleges and universities are pushing boards of trustees to divest their universities’ assets in the fossil fuel industry, according to an article by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

The Chronicle reported that of the approximately $400 billion in endowments held by colleges and universities, about $20 billion is invested in energy and natural resources such as coal, oil and gas.

Two small schools, Unity College in Maine and Hampshire College in Massachusetts, have already divested their holdings from the fossil fuel industry, according to a blog from The Nation.

Larger schools like the University of Minnesota face a more difficult road to divestment.

“The [University] is a huge institution and it’s probably the most challenging one in the state of Minnesota to get to divest,” said Kate Jacobson Faye, coordinator for MN350.

Though the size of the University makes it a difficult target for divestment campaigns, students and faculty have begun to discuss ways to move the University toward a new fossil fuel standard. In December, the University hosted the Climate Math that Works conference, where more than 100 students and professionals gathered to explore the potential of fossil fuel divestment in Minnesota. Participants studied ways to unify people through social movements with workshops, panels and guest speakers.

Jacobson Faye said the conference was meant to help individuals interested in divestment make connections and to lay the groundwork for future discussion.

“There’s quite a strong sense of responsibility and activism that gets people to take action when they don’t feel like something’s not right,” she said.

Youth Studies senior Patty O’Keefe is working to connect the multiple University groups that have shown interest in developing divestment initiatives on campus. She said showing investors that students are passionate about the issue will be a key part of the campaign in the months to come. 

“It’s really all about numbers,” O’Keefe said, “and how you can show these boards of trustees and boards of regents that there is a significant sector of the student body that really, really cares about this stuff and does not want us investing in nonrenewable energy.”