At Friday Rally, Cornellians Urge Trustees to Divest

Cornellians gathered in front of Day Hall demanding that the University’s Board of Trustees divest from the fossil fuel industry...

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By Sloane Grinspoon, via Cornell Daily Sun, 10/21/14

Over 50 Cornellians gathered in front of Day Hall Friday demanding that the University’s Board of Trustees — who were in Ithaca for the Trustee-Council Annual Meeting and Homecoming — divest from the fossil fuel industry.

The University’s divestment from fossil fuels is important in order to send the message that it disapproves of the negative effects the fossil fuel industry has on the environment, according to Cole Norgaarden ’17, copresident and treasurer of KyotoNOW! — the student group that organized the rally.

Over 50 Cornellians gathered outside of Day Hall Friday, urging the University’s Board of Trustees to divest the fossil fuel industry from Cornell’s endowment. (Bryce Evans / Sun Staff Photographer)
Over 50 Cornellians gathered outside of Day Hall Friday, urging the University’s Board of Trustees to divest the fossil fuel industry from Cornell’s endowment. (Bryce Evans / Sun Staff Photographer)

“The trustees say they do not want to politicize the endowment,” Norgaarden said. “We say the endowment is inherently politicized with every last penny invested in the fossil fuel industry and in the climate chaos that it results in every single day.”

Cornell has stated in the past that divesting would negatively affect the University; at a University Assembly meeting in April, Cornell’s Chief Investment Officer A.J. Edwards said it would also likely have a minimal impact on the companies it would potentially be divesting from, The Sun previously reported.

Prof. Bob Howarth, said that while the University should be proud of the success it has achieved so far in divesting from coal, it should continue to push towards divesting from all fossil fuels.

“On the issue of divestment, divesting from coal simply is not enough,” Howarth said. “We need to move quickly away from all fossil fuels.”

Howarth went on to explain the environmental impact the fossil fuel industry has on the environment.

“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change tells us that each of the last three decades has successively been the warmest on earth ever observed in the time that our species has been on this planet,” Howarth said. “Climate change is real — it’s growing, and it’s growing steadily.”

Norgaarden said the rally was deliberately planned to coincide with Homecoming as well as the gathering of the University’s trustees on campus.

“Cornell has done a lot of outstanding work for sustainability and we’re very proud of how far our University has come,” Norgaarden said. “But now it’s time to push for full divestment from fossil fuels to bring our endowment in line with this mission. Issuing a publicly disclosed, independent feasibility study on divestment impact by the end of the calendar year would be a great step towards this goal.”

According to Aubree Keurajian ’15, a member of KyotoNOW!, the rally aimed to demonstrate student and faculty support for divestment.

“Over 130 Cornell students went down to the People’s Climate Rally in [New York City] earlier this semester and we wanted to harness this excitement and energy to show the administration, and the rest of the Cornell community, that students really care about environmental justice and climate change,” said Keurajian, who helped to plan the rally.

According to Norgaarden, the rally was planned in collaboration with students and professors as a result of last year’s U.A. decision to “take divestment of the table” from administrative consideration.

“Faculty who had invested time in fighting the proposal reached out to us to begin planning an event to demonstrate support on campus for both divestment from fossil fuels and climate issues at large,” Norgaarden said.

Though Norgaarden said the organization has “yet to hear anything from the administration or trustees,” the rally was a success in that it was well attended.

“We definitely believe that this rally was a success,” Norgaarden said. “Turnout among students, faculty and even alumni surpassed our expectations, and the entire event ran smoothly without interruption.”

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