The College Divestment Movement is gaining momentum and is sending a clear message to oil companies across the United States. The movement is present at 50 universities and is supported by 350.org and The Better Future Project.
The latest example of this divestment – the Board of Trustees at Unity College in Maine has voted to divest their endowment from fossil fuel industries. Likewise, the Harvard College Undergraduate Council plans to have Harvard University divest $30.7 billion endowment from fossil fuels.
Why is this movement significant? American colleges and universities function in big part thanks to financial endowments – a transfer of money or property donated to the school. An institution’s endowment accounts for the total value of all investments. Usually, it is organized as a trust, private foundation, or charity. These endowments, in turn, typically finance parts of the school’s operating or capital requirements.
In response to the movement, Harvard has created a social choice fund, which amounts to a new fund to be established on July 1, 2013 that will base investments in mutual funds on approval by the Corporation Committee on Shareholder Responsibility. This will allow donors to give money to the school while being 100% certain that none of that donation will go towards the fossil fuel industry.
So, by saying NO to ‘Big Oil,” universities and colleges are giving up millions of dollars from companies like Chevron, Shell, and ExxonMobil.