By Aimee Villalpando |Staff Writer|
Divest Harvard is one of over 400 campaigns at universities across the nation calling for endowments in fossil fuel companies to be terminated, according to divestharvard.com. Harvard currently has $34.6 million invested in the top 200 fossil fuel companies, which is the largest university endowment in the world.
Endowments, as defined by the 2012 California State University’s (CSU) Philanthropic Report, are funds to be retained and invested for income-producing purposes.
Members of Divest Harvard believe higher education institutions serve as investments in the future of their students and their communities and should not be supporting corporations that threaten the stability of the planet’s climate.
The movement to end university involvement with oil companies began after the publication of Bill McKibben’s August 2012 Rolling Stone article “Climate Change’s Terrifying New Math.”
McKibben’s article explained how the fossil fuel industry disregards international limits on burning fossil fuel reserves and continues to block political regulations for monitoring climate change.
Divest Harvard claims “that the power of the fossil fuel industry is the primary obstacle to stopping climate change.”
The movement hopes to “highlight the destructive practices of this industry and to wake up our nation to the most pressing ethical issue of our time.”
Fossil-free campaigns take away the industry’s political influence, holds them accountable for misinforming the public and causing climate change, and paves the way for climate legislation.
Divest Harvard consists of students, staff, faculty, alumni, and even community members, who have joined the movement by signing petitions.
Divest Harvard members feel the university is risking their significantly sized endowment by investing in corporations, hoping the fossil fuel industry will soon see legislative regulation.
Within the CSU system, organizations that consist of foundations and corporations make up the majority of philanthropic donations.
For example, in the 2012-2013 fiscal year CSU East Bay received a $750,000 grant and a $500,000 pledge from Chevron Corporation to support the Mathematics Achievement Academies program.
The CSU system received over $50 million from corporations in 2012, with CSUSB claiming $1 million of that amount.
CSUSB averaged $2.8 million in annual donations from 2010-2013.
Other CSUs starting to campaign to be fossil-free include CSU Sacramento and CSU East Bay, in addition to UCs such as Davis and Berkeley.
CSUSB Vice President of University Advancement Ron Fremont said, “The question is not necessarily what entities are supporting colleges or universities, although that certainly comes into play, but more specifically how the university endowments are managed and the types of investment funds.”
Fremont explained CSUSB’s endowment is managed by our Philanthropic Foundation, a group of business leaders and alumni.
A subcommittee of the Foundation focuses on the investment strategy of the endowment, relying on advisement from Beacon Pointe, a company that manages the day-to-day investments of our endowment. The Foundation counsels Beacon Pointe in creating a diverse investment strategy.
“This ensures that we are not ‘putting our eggs in one basket’ so we can expect meaningful growth of the portfolio without a significant risk when the investment markets take a downturn,” said Fremont.
This group of volunteers and investment experts are dedicated to protecting assets that CSUSB students depend on, such as scholarships and other academic resources, added Fremont.
“To be honest, we have not yet determined if we should divest ourselves from funds tied to fossil fuel companies. It would take some additional research to determine which funds have those companies in their portfolio,” added Fremont.
Regardless of involvement with fossil fuel companies, CSUSB’s endowment increased by 14.76 percent from last year, the third best against peer CSU’s.
The market value of CSUSB’s endowment as of Sept. 30 was between $24, $154, and $843.