University of Pennsylvania Rejects Fossil Fuel Divestment Pressure

Published October 20, 2016

The University of Pennsylvania (UP) has joined a growing list of major universities to reject calls by environmental groups to divest fossil fuel investments from their endowments.

The Daily Caller reports, UP’s Ad Hoc Advisory Committee on Divestment, consisting of faculty and students, announced September 22, 2016, the social costs associated with investing fossil fuels do not amount to moral corruption. The Chairman of the Board of Trustees David Cohen wrote in a letter to Fossil Free Penn, one of the groups demanding UP divest its holdings in fossil fuels, the purported “moral evil” protesters linked to oil companies like Exxon Mobil do not rise to a level “on par with apartheid or genocide.”

“While the Trustees recognize that the ‘bar’ of moral evil presents a rigorously high barrier of consideration, we are resolute in our belief that such a high barrier must be maintained so that investment decisions and the endowment are not used for the purpose of making public policy statements,” Cohen wrote.

Stanford Also Rejects Divestment Call

Prior to UP’s decision not to divest its fossil fuel holdings, in May Stanford University decided against divestment saying divesting from coal, oil, and natural gas company stocks oil would not be the ethical thing to do.

According to The Daily Caller, Stanford’s Board of Trustees established an Advisory Panel on Investment Responsibility and Licensing (APIRL) made up of faculty members, students, and alumni to help the trustees determine whether to purge the university’s oil assets.

The APIRL concluded, “it could not evaluate whether the social injury caused by the fossil fuel industry outweighs the social benefit it provides.” As a result, it advised the school not to divest its fossil fuel assets, a recommendation the board of trustees accepted.

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D., ([email protected]) is the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.