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Board’s decision against fossil fuel divestment meets controversy
Fossil Free Stanford is continuing their campaign for divestment from fossil fuels, despite the Stanford Board of Trustees recent decision not to take action on the matter (RAGHAV MEHROTRA /The Stanford Daily).

Board’s decision against fossil fuel divestment meets controversy

On April 25, the Board of Trustees reignited a campus-wide controversy when it announced that Stanford will not divest from the fossil fuel industry, specifically from oil or gas.

The Board’s decision was in response to a request for divestment made by the student group Fossil Free Stanford (FFS), whose multiyear campaign for fossil fuel divestment included a weeklong sit in protest last November outside President Hennessy’s office.

While those involved in the Board’s decision not to divest have defended the recent announcement, calling divestment an extreme action, many students and faculty have criticized the decision– with members of FFS in particular vowing to continue to fight for their cause.

Decision process

After submitting a Request for Review (RFR) directly to the Advisory Panel on Investment Responsibility (APIRL), FFS was invited to speak with APIRL. APIRL then proceeded to investigate the claim, and based on this investigation made a recommendation to the Board of Trustees’ Special Committee on Investment Responsibility (SCIR) in February of this year. SCIR then gave its own recommendation to the Board as a whole, which has the final say on all requests for divestment.

However, according to Susan Weinstein ’72 M.B.A. ’79, assistant vice president for business development and the current APIRL chair, SCIR strongly considers APIRL’s recommendation when making their decision.

Weinstein emphasized that the bar for divestment is high.

“Divestment is an extreme solution and is generally recommended only when all six requirement for divestment contained in the SIR [Statement on Investment Responsibility] have been met,” she said in an email to the Daily.

In a public statement announcing their decision, the Board of Trustees particularly stressed that the company or industry’s social injury must outweigh social benefit for the Board to decide to divest. The Board stated that APIRL, in its recommendation to the SCIR, concluded that “it could not evaluate whether the social injury caused by the fossil fuel industry outweighs the social benefit it provides” and that therefore the criteria for divestment were not met.

While APIRL advised Stanford to divest from companies directly involved in oil sands extraction, the Board stated that Stanford owns no such stock.

“APIRL recommended divestment of companies whose primary business is oil sands extraction, a method that studies have found requires more water, and releases more carbon into the atmosphere, than other forms of fossil fuel extraction,” the Board wrote in its statement. “However, Stanford Management Company has advised SCIR that the Stanford endowment has no direct exposure to companies whose primary business is oil sands extraction. Therefore, there is no action for the Board of Trustees to take.”

The Board also announced the creation of a Climate Task Force that will include undergraduates, graduate students, faculty and staff. The task force will “actively solicit ideas from the Stanford community” about how the University can address climate change.

Trustees were not available to comment for this article.

Response from FFS and others

Members of FFS were disappointed by the Board of Trustees’ decision — including their announcement that they would take no action on divestment from oil sands extraction, which FFS criticized for creating no explicit ban on tar sands investment.

“With coal, [the Board] voted to divest from coal explicitly and set out a policy outlining that they will not invest in coal in the future and recommended that their external managers’ also divest from coal holdings,” said Zhanpei Fang ’19, an active member of FFS. “That was a more thorough divestment action.”

Fang explained that because the Board’s statement on tar sands was “extremely non-committal,” FFS views the trustees’ decision as a full-out refusal to divest.

Despite their disappointment with the Board, FFS expressed willingness to cooperate with the new Climate Task Force.

“We have advised the administration that this task force should include people who have been heavily involved in the call for divestment because it was created in response to that,” said Yari Greaney ’15 M.S. ’16, one of the founding members of FFS.

Greaney further clarified that FFS will continue to work towards divestment and will not accept the Climate Task Force as a substitute to divestment.

“There is not an alternative to divestment,” she said. “There are complementary strategies to divestment.”

FFS is not alone in its disapproval of the Board’s decision, having mobilized hundreds of faculty as well as thousands of students and alumni for its cause over the past three years, according to Greaney. This includes 450 faculty who signed a letter in support of divestment, and over 300 students who have pledged not to donate to Stanford after graduating or as part of their senior gift until the University divests.

Among these supporters is Mark Jacobson ’87 M.S. ’88, professor of civil and environmental engineering, senior fellow at the Precourt Institute for Energy, and senior fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment. Jacobson contests the Board of Trustees’ claim that it is unclear whether the social injury caused by the fossil fuel industry outweighs its social benefit.

“The Board of Trustees made zero consideration for the assault on the general population,” Jacobson said, referring to the health conditions caused by the fossil fuel industry that he says lead to thousands of deaths annually. “These industries sell these products knowing that they cause mortality… and it seems like [the Board] shirked their responsibility to actually investigate this topic thoroughly.”

“Stanford has a moral responsibility not to invest in companies that are engaged in mass murder,” Jacobson said.

APIRL, however, maintains that its investigation was thorough.

“In this case, APIRL conducted a thorough review of the issues raised by FFS, drawing on the expertise of Stanford faculty and others, and in a manner guided by the University’s Statement on Investment Responsibility,” said Weinstein.

Weinstein said that the panel included two faculty members with “strong backgrounds in the subject matter” who were exemplary of faculty involvement: Rob Jackson, Michelle and Kevin Douglas Provostial Professor, senior fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment and senior fellow at the Precourt Institute for Energy, and Barton “Buzz” Thompson ’72 J.D. ’76 M.B.A , Robert E. Paradise Professor in Natural Resources Law and Perry L. McCarty Director of the Woods Institute.

Despite APIRL’s claims of thorough deliberation, FFS has expressed frustration with what they call the bureaucratic nature of the divestment deliberation process, and what they consider to be a lack of transparency on the part of the administration.

“They wrote rules that they were unable to follow,” Greaney said. “They made criteria that that were unable to answer…That is irresponsible. What the administration is doing is hiding behind the bureaucracy that they have created.”

However, FFS members believe that Stanford’s hiring of Alison Colwell for the new position of director of Investment Responsibility Stakeholder Relations is a step in the direction of transparency.

“That has been a success of our campaign,” Fang said. “Bringing accountability to Stanford’s administration is something that we have achieved over…four years.”

Regardless, FFS plans to continue to push Stanford to divest from fossil fuels by placing pressure on the administration.

“We are not going away,” Fang said. This movement is not going away. We will keep fighting until Stanford is fully divested from fossil fuels.”

 

Contact Blanca Andrei at bandrei ‘at’ stanford.edu.

  • Puma_01

    For those who intend to “keep fighting until Stanford is fully divested from fossil fuels,” how do you define “divestment from fossil fuels”? Does that include divesting from companies that profit from fossil fuels in any material way? Have you ever received a shipment via UPS? About 40% of UPS’ operating expenses consists of aviation fuel purchases (not counting fuels for their trucks). If they aren’t a fossil fuel company, I don’t know what is. Did you fly to campus on Delta? They consume over $10 billion a year in jet fuel. Do you shop at WalMart? Their operations consume over 4 million tons of coal a year. Someone else may be extracting and refining the fuels, but these companies are still enjoying large profits off of the actual consumption of it. It’s all one supply chain.

    The truth is that that the US and world economy are dependent on fossil fuels (including nearly every single Stanford student, professor, and alum). I support a path to the elimination of the world’s dependence on fossil fuels, but I don’t see how what the students are demanding here gets us even one inch closer to that goal. What is the big picture? Can someone lay out exactly what they expect to happen once Stanford transfers its voting shares in fossil fuel companies to other investors? How is this supposed to eliminate the world’s dependence on fossil fuels any faster?

  • Red

    It’s not that hard to understand…. starve fossil fuel companies of cash, while sending a strong signal to the stock market and fossil fuel investors with the associated PR, and invest in alternative energy companies supporting the inevitable transition to cleaner energy production, efficiency, and storage. Nobody is saying that they won’t use UPS or travel by air… that is not the point. The point is that we have better energy alternatives and a university that claims to be a leader in climate change sure as hell better not be a part owner of, and investor in, the very industry that is causing climate change.

  • Gil

    Mark Jacobson’s quote “Stanford has a moral responsibility not to invest in companies that are engaged in mass murder” is true. However, this is a little ironic considering that Jacobson’s 100% “clean” energy plan includes ongoing use of hydro dams that are known to be significant greenhouse gas emitters and are also the very climate change culprits he is condemning. It is time for Stanford to remove their methane emitting and unnecessary Searsville Dam and for Jacobson to divest his plan of dirty hydro dams.

    Sediment Trapping by Dams Creates Methane Emission Hot Spots:
    http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es4003907

  • Puma_01

    How exactly does a shareholder selling stock in an oil company “starve” that company of cash (or, indeed, impact the company’s cash position in any way)?

  • Red

    The whole point is that this isn’t a typical shareholder. If one of the wealthiest and most highly respected institutions on the planet publicly divests from the entire fossil fuel industry, and sells millions or even billions of dollars worth of fossil fuel stocks, this would have a huge impact on investor confidence worldwide and be a precedent that others would follow… share prices and company value adjust accordingly.

  • Puma_01

    Thanks for responding. If you are a current student, you are very fortunate to share a campus with some of the foremost experts in economics, ethics, finance, business, international law, engineering, research, marketing, sociology, political science, history, etc. They’ve spent their careers studying these issues and could add exponentially more value to this discussion than I. (In fact, I would recommend that the students host a round table on divestment as strategy to reduce global warming – especially given that the Trustees seem to have included only two faculty members on their panel, which seems a bit lacking.) That said, as a Stanford alum and finance professional here’s my perspective:

    First, there is no fossil fuel “industry.” Fossil fuels are endemic to the world economy. Your proposal relates to a subcomponent of the world economy, the fossil fuel EXTRACTION industry. I’m sympathetic to your desire to avoid having our university invest in an industry that is causing climate change, but your proposal doesn’t accomplish that.

    For one, the consumption of fossil fuels releases a lot more CO2 than the mere extraction of it. Even internet companies are a problem. Take Amazon, which has made a HUGE contribution to CO2 emissions in their short existence. Why? Because they have an extremely energy-inefficient supply chain. Let’s say a customer in San Francisco needs a watch band. They find a good price on Amazon and order overnight shipping via FedEx. That band, which had been previously manufactured in China and shipped to LA, is immediately placed in both a padded envelope and FedEx packaging and flown to Tennessee. The watch band is then flown back to San Francisco, loaded onto a van and delivered to the Amazon customer’s door. The envelope and packaging are discarded and carted away by a trash truck. Multiply by 300 million transactions. Now repeat.

    Further, there is a wide swath of the economy that realizes profits from the fossil fuel extraction industry beyond the extractors themselves. This includes machinery and equipment suppliers (like Caterpillar – the “preferred choice in the oil field”), transportation providers (shipping tankers/railroads/trucks), lenders (Bank of America with over $21 billion in outstanding loans to oil extractors), state and federal governments (billions earned in fuel excise taxes and royalties), etc. It is nearly impossible to do anything with your money (buy government or corporate bonds, put it in the bank, buy index funds, etc.) without realizing direct and indirect profits from both fossil fuel consumption and extraction. Again, fossil fuels are endemic to the world economy.

    Now I should clarify that I fully support your recommendation that Stanford invest in alternative energy companies. However, I’m not aware that its holdings in fossil fuel extractors are limiting Stanford’s ability to do so. If there is an investment to be made, I presume Stanford has the resources to make it (in no small part due to the profits it has realized from its investments in the existing world-wide fossil fuel economy).

    Ignoring all the above, let’s say we still just want to go after the extractors (either for the symbolic value or otherwise). Whether it involves $5, $500 million or $5 billion, Stanford selling shares in a public oil company does nothing to impact the cash available to that company (unless they were just about to issue new shares). There could be a price drop (an impact to shareholders not the company), if Stanford were to liquidate its holdings all at once (unlikely). But, even then, without a change in the underlying economics/profitability of the oil extractor, that dip would be short term.

    Further, if you are looking to send a moral message about the seriousness of climate change, the proposal to divest from the extractor segment is a weak one given that the university would still be earning both indirect profits through the oil extractors’ suppliers and direct profits from the oil extractors’ consumers. Don’t confuse divestment from a sub-industry with an actual boycott of or divestment from fossil fuels generally.

    Moreover, if you don’t like the way the oil extractors are being run, having a sympathetic institutional investor like Stanford give up its voting shares is a poor way to effect operational change in those companies.

    As you’ve probably guessed by now, I view this as anything but “simple,” especially if you are hoping to rely solely on corporate finance as your solution. The Trustees evaluated the stock sale proposal and rejected it. You could keep demanding this so-called “divestment” strategy over and over, but my recommendation is that you take this opportunity to refocus on your ultimate goal rather than try to force this given method to achieve it.

    Stanford is known as a center of innovation for a reason. As our friends at the d.school might say, innovation is solving a real world problem taking into account the intersection of technology, business and human values. Don’t stop at finance.

  • Red

    That is your perspective, which is fine. However, many disagree with your conclusion that this effort “doesn’t accomplish” the goals for this university campaign or broader international campaigns for fossil fuel divestment by institutions of “higher learning”. In addition to the above department you cite, Stanford touts itself as a leader in tackling climate change, environmental stewardship, and promoter of clean energy technology. To simultaneously be making these claims, teaching these principles in the classroom, and be invested in fossil fuel companies is hypocritical and undermines Stanford credibility.

  • Puma_01

    I respect that others disagree with my perspective. My business is business, not philosophy. To me, the fact that there is a “campaign” or that someone else has proposed something similar for another university is of little consequence unless we are able to articulate (and support) exactly how Stanford selling some shares will impact fossil fuel companies or help in any way to reduce the world’s consumption of fossil fuels. I care about results, not rhetoric.

    Maybe it all just comes down to appearances. You criticize Stanford for being hypocritical for investing in fossil fuel companies (as you narrowly define them) while teaching/developing clean energy technology in the classroom. But the students in those classes are real students (and are very likely going to be the leaders in the clean technology field). The technologies that Stanford is developing are real technologies (that could very well be the difference in weaning the world off of its fossil fuel dependence). So the university is, in a way, doing what you want — they are reinvesting profits from its existing holdings into alternative fuel research and education that will directly compete against the fossil fuel companies. They are just doing so under a different timetable than you prefer.

    I could understand complaining that Stanford is not investing enough in alternative fuel research and education. I could also understand complaining about Stanford owning fossil fuel stocks if they were to do something like encourage the fuel companies to expand fracking. But neither is the case to my knowledge. If anything, it is the other shareholders of the fossil fuel companies who should be upset with Stanford because the university is using its fossil fuel profits in a way that is intended to make their shares worthless. If that undermines Stanford’s credibility then I say, so be it. From my perspective the key is that Stanford continues to use its available resources to make investments in the development of alternative fuels. Global warming is a real problem and it deserves a real solution..

  • Red

    Wow. That’s some of the most twisted rationalization I’ve ever seen. I’m done with this thread.

  • Puma_01

    Thank you for engaging in this dialogue Red. Your sign off was a little abrupt, but it’s helpful as an alum to get some clarity from the students about their position on this issue. Despite your departure, I will continue to clarify my position for those who might be following this thread.

    The trouble here seems to be that divestment advocates can’t conceive of someone with a moral imperative effecting that imperative through ownership. A boycott strategy is a much more familiar one to us all. The idea there is to make a business (or country) you have no control over hurt so they will change their ways. In the corporate world though there is much more direct way to make companies change – to own voting shares in the company.

    Many economically powerful yet morally responsible investor groups are starting to recognize this. I strongly recommend that students explore the following article and others like it. It describes how the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility, which claims 300 member organizations controlling $100 billion in invested capital, has called for more shareholder engagement with fossil fuel companies instead of divestment so that they can have the power to take meaningful actions to “to accelerate progress toward a fossil fuel free world.” As they explain, “Divestment is one step but a blunt instrument that leaves investors with no voice at corporate tables.” http://blogs.wsj.com/riskandcompliance/2015/02/13/shareholder-group-comes-out-against-fossil-fuel-divestment/ Having worked for multinationals and seen what an impact institutional shareholders can have on corporate policy, that approach resonates with me.

    From my perspective a campaign that seeks to eliminate the voice of all institutions of higher learning from the corporate table is exactly the wrong one that we need right now. That’s a ton of institutional oversight just thrown away.

    Such an approach might nonetheless be worth it divestment did, in fact, “starve” these companies and could force change in that way. However, as explained, selling the shares would have no impact on the company’s access to cash. (For mature companies, cash is derived from sales revenue, loans and retained earnings, none of which are impacted by a shareholder’s stock sale.) Further, Stanford’s existing portfolio mix does not prevent it from making needed investments in alternative fuels education and research (rather the opposite is true).

    I understand that there many who nonetheless maintain that immediate and complete divestment from a given segment of the world’s fossil fuel dependent economy is the best course. I respect that view and I think that option should be fully explored. But at the same time I find it disappointing that in trying to force this one possible course of action some have managed to convince current students, and even some alums, to turn their back on a university that is making a genuine (and important) contribution toward a fossil fuel free world.

  • Bill

    Puma,
    Please read this Guardian article:

    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/mar/09/10-myths-about-fossil-fuel-divestment-put-to-the-sword

    A few relevant excerpts:

    “this entirely misses the point of divestment, which aims to remove the legitimacy of a fossil fuel industry whose current business model will lead to “severe, widespread and irreversible” impacts on people. Divestment works by stigmatising, as pointed out in a report from Oxford University: “The outcome of the stigmatisation process poses the most far-reaching threat to fossil fuel companies. Any direct impacts pale in comparison.”

    The “gesture politics” criticism also ignores the political power of the fossil fuel industry, which spent over $400m (£265m) on lobbying and political donations in 2012 in the US alone. Undercutting that lobbying makes it easier for politicians to take action and the Oxford study showed that previous divestment campaigns – against apartheid South Africa, tobacco and Darfur – were all followed by restrictive new laws.”

    —–

    “Another dimension is warning investors that their fossil fuel assets may lose their value…”

    —–

    Divestment efforts “undermine” fossil fuel companies “influence and helps create the political space for strong carbon-cutting policies – and that could have financial consequences.

    Investors are already starting to question the future value of the fossil fuel companies’ assets and, for example, it is notable that no major bank is willing to fund the massive Galilee basin coal project in Australia. This myth can also be turned on its head by considering the risk of fossil fuel companies bankrupting their investors. Many authoritative voices, such as the heads of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, and the Bank of England, Mark Carney, have warned that many fossil fuel reserves could be left worthless by action on climate change. If the retreat from fossil fuels does not happen in a gradual and planned way investors could lose trillions of dollars as the “carbon bubble” bursts.”

  • Bill

    Bill Puma_01 • 22 minutes ago

    Puma,

    Please read this Guardian article:

    http://www.theguardian.com/env

    A few relevant excerpts:

    “this entirely misses the point of divestment, which aims to remove the legitimacy of a fossil fuel industry whose current business model will lead to “severe, widespread and irreversible” impacts on people. Divestment works by stigmatising, as pointed out in a report from Oxford University: “The outcome of the stigmatisation process poses the most far-reaching threat to fossil fuel companies. Any direct impacts pale in comparison.”

    The “gesture politics” criticism also ignores the political power of the fossil fuel industry, which spent over $400m (£265m) on lobbying and political donations in 2012 in the US alone. Undercutting that lobbying makes it easier for politicians to take action and the Oxford study showed that previous divestment campaigns – against apartheid South Africa, tobacco and Darfur – were all followed by restrictive new laws.”

    —–

    “Another dimension is warning investors that their fossil fuel assets may lose their value…”

    —–

    Divestment efforts “undermine” fossil fuel companies “influence and helps create the political space for strong carbon-cutting policies – and that could have financial consequences.

    Investors are already starting to question the future value of the fossil fuel companies’ assets and, for example, it is notable that no major bank is willing to fund the massive Galilee basin coal project in Australia. This myth can also be turned on its head by considering the risk of fossil fuel companies bankrupting their investors. Many authoritative voices, such as the heads of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, and the Bank of England, Mark Carney, have warned that many fossil fuel reserves could be left worthless by action on climate change. If the retreat from fossil fuels does not happen in a gradual and planned way investors could lose trillions of dollars as the “carbon bubble” bursts.”

  • Puma_01

    Just did. Thanks. He makes some good points, not all valid. But it is notable that he concedes divestment can’t bankrupt oil companies (though he cites the wrong reason for this proposition – he says divestment would be too small, but the real problem is that selling stock doesn’t impact the corporation’s cash flow). It is also notable that the author acknowledges that “serious engagement could drive some change…Whatever your view, remember this is not an either/or situation. Many campaigners view divestment as the stick and engagement as the carrot, with both aiming for the same ultimate goal.”

  • Bill

    Puma,
    It seems to me that you are not acknowledging that the effectiveness and goals of this, and other, university divestment campaigns goes far beyond directly impacting share price of company valuation. These divestment efforts are all about student, community, university, media, “engagement”, influencing investor perspective on fossil fuel companies worldwide, and even the power of shaming those who are being hypocritical and influencing those watching. Your comments seem to imply that you are an alum involved in Stanford investment or an unwavering defender of your alma mater. Stanford is on the wrong side of history in this case.

  • Puma_01

    I think you saw my post above, but I repeat that it is notable that this author supports engagement as a shareholder as a valid (and complimentary) alternative to divestment.

    I should add that one of the points I find off-base in the article is his discussion of risk. Put yourself in an oil company executive’s shoes for a moment. What would drive your investment decision to expand oil exploration? Demand, right? So let’s say you are trying to project your auto fuel sales. What would you the oil executive look at to determine demand? Well you might look at the fact that auto companies are producing over 60 million passenger cars a year, the vast majority of which rely upon the fossil fuel combustion engine. You also will be impressed by the fact that there are 1.2 billion cars in the world. You will also likely consider the fact a car will likely represent the most expensive asset their purchasers will own (outside of perhaps a home) and thus those 1.2 billion car owners have a powerful economic incentive to continue using fossil fuels. They may drive less or more in a given year, but those gas-using assets aren’t going away time soon.

    Now let’s say some investors announce on a Tuesday they are selling their shares in your oil company on moral grounds and it gets some press for a few days. How would that impact your fuel sale projection vs those 1.2 billion cars?

    The author’s implication that a shareholder selling shares on moral grounds would alter sales projections in any material way (and thus potentially curb oil exploration) is aspirational in my view.

    The author offers a counter that the divestment can stigmatize oil and thus impact the company’s analysis of the overall risk of increased climate change regulations. However, that is a risk that they will analyze with or without shareholder action.

    His claim that prior divestment campaigns led to increased regulations is an interesting one. But it is important to recognize some differences in those campaigns. In South Africa and Darfur, for example, you had isolated countries with fragile economies (with Darfur’s being particularly fragile), that the world, frankly, could do without. In that case those countries were actually starved for cash as companies pulled their capital out. That is far different than the so-called “divestment” here, where you are just changing shareholders, the companies retain their cash, and the world economy retains its dependence on fossil fuels.

    Further, his tobacco industry example is a terrible one and actually is demonstrative of why divestment is an ineffective strategy where there is a strong underlying demand for a product. Yes, government regulation of tobacco increased, but so, eventually, did the profitability of the tobacco industry. Worldwide tobacco stocks have increased 1000% since 2000.

  • Puma_01

    I am an alum, but have never been involved in Stanford investment in any way. I have readily admitted in this thread that my bias comes from my being a finance professional. As I acknowledged in my initial post, I don’t claim to have anywhere near the experience and knowledge to address this issue in all of its complexity. I am simply sharing my perspective, having seen first hand how a variety of multinationals and their investors make decisions. As I recommended in my initial post, the students should make use of the deep knowledge and experience that has already been assembled right there on campus to explore this in depth.

  • TerriG

    Puma_01,

    Maybe you missed this last year, but the Stanford divestment movement helped to get 300 of Stanford’s top faculty to send a letter to the President and Trustees calling for full fossil fuel divestment. I don’t think you are giving the students nearly enough credit for “making use of the deep knowledge and experience that has already been assembled right there on campus to explore this in depth.” They have and continue to gain international attention and pressure on the university.

    Here is a Guardian article with the letter:

    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jan/11/stanford-professors-fossil-fuel-investments

  • Puma_01

    I wasn’t aware of that letter. It is very impressive, especially seeing Don Kennedy’s near the top. I have great respect for his judgment. However, that really wasn’t the type of student/faculty collaboration I was talking about. In reading about it, it appears that letter was circulated by a faculty member who sought like-minded faculty who supported divestment. The fact that there were 300 such faculty is not to be ignored, but there is also the 86% of the faculty that didn’t sign the letter. We know nothing about why any faculty member did or did not sign it.

    An actual interdisciplinary round table where voices from the full gamut of disciplines are heard would be much more revealing. For example, I see a lot of scientists on that list. I’m sure they recognize the significance of global warming and would naturally support an effort presented to them as a potential solution to begin to try to address it. But on a quick search it seems the list lacks corporate finance and governance experts. Why is that? Did they disagree with the letter or did no one ever consult them? The chosen technique (divestment) squarely involves finance and corporate governance. I would have expected that to be the first issue you would explore.

    To make a comparison, a few years ago, someone was able to get 49 former NASA scientists to sign a letter blasting NASA for “claiming” that man-made carbon dioxide is having a catastrophic impact on global climate change are not substantiated. I have lambasted conservative friends for pointing to that letter as proof that climate change is overblown. As I countered to them, that letter was easily dismissed as the signatories were not subject matter experts on climate change (not to mention it goes against the nearly complete world-wide consensus on the issue). The experts you choose to bring to the table make a difference.

    When the first response I read from a student leader on this issue is that this is “not hard to understand” because divestment will “starve” the fossil fuel companies of cash, I can only conclude that the students have not, in fact, taken the time to explore this issue with all the relevant faculty experts.