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Rutgers University to divest from fossil fuels

<h6>Nick Romanenko/Rutgers University</h6>
Nick Romanenko/Rutgers University

On March 9, Rutgers resolved to divest from fossil fuel investments, becoming the first university in New Jersey to do so.

As part of its divestment strategy, Rutgers will stop investing in fossil fuel companies, cease existing investments within 10 years, and reinvest in renewable energy sources.

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“Approving a policy of divestment from fossil fuels is a significant expression of the values of our institution and our broader community,” said Rutgers president Jonathan Holloway, according to a press release on Rutgers’ website.

The decision to divest was made at the recommendation of an ad hoc committee, which was composed of students, faculty, and staff. The committee was created in spring 2020 in response to a divestment request submitted by the Endowment Justice Collective, a student group advocating for fossil fuel divestment.

In an email to The Daily Princetonian, Rutgers Senior Vice President for Strategy Brian Ballentine wrote that in considering the divestment request, the ad hoc committee considered three factors.

“We observed the enduring, cross-cutting support for divestment from a wide range of stakeholders. We noted Rutgers’ own position as a national leader on sustainability and carbon neutrality. Finally, we considered the balance of the importance of expressing our values against potential financial impact,” wrote Ballentine.

“Students like me have expressed our desires to see the university rapidly decrease its carbon footprint and will be proud to see Rutgers taking this step,” said Zunaira Wasim in the Rutgers press release. Wasim is one of four students who served on the committee.

Fossil fuel investments currently comprise five percent of Rutgers’ $1.6 billion endowment.

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“The committee discussed the importance of precedent in its deliberations, and its hope was that this balanced, collaborative approach would be a model for future committees and for other institutions,” Ballentine wrote in his email to the ‘Prince.’

Like at Rutgers, Princeton’s student-led divestment organization, Divest Princeton, has received widespread student support for divestment. In Princeton’s case, a pro-divestment petition received 2,200 signatures, according to Anna Hiltner ’23, Divest Princeton’s co-coordinator. 

In November, a USG Referendum on divestment passed with 82 percent of undergraduates in favor of demanding the Board of Trustees divest from the fossil fuel industry and from companies that spread climate misinformation.

Divest Princeton submitted a divestment proposal to the Council of the Princeton University Community Resources Committee in February 2020. The Resources Committee will submit its recommendations on fossil fuel divestment to the Board of Trustees in May but has not revealed details of the recommendation.

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A campaign called the Princeton Sustainable Investment Initiative previously submitted a divestment proposal to the Resources Committee in 2013, which was rejected in 2015.

“Princeton had the power to take action on this eight years ago and they have the power to take action on it today. I think urgency is needed, especially when the [United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] report gives us ten years to respond to the climate crisis and prevent the worst effects of climate change,” Hiltner said. “We don’t have more time to waste, and I’m glad the Rutgers administration has recognized that.” 

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