UD to cut coal and fossil fuel investments

The University of Dayton will begin a “mission-related” divestment of coal and fossil fuels holdings from its $670 million investment pool immediately, officials announced Monday.

“As a Catholic university it’s our responsibility to serve as good stewards of the earth. So we cannot ignore the negative consequences of climate change which disproportionately impacts the world’s most vulnerable people,” President Daniel J. Curran said.

The University of Dayton is believed to be the first Catholic university in the country to join a dozen other public and private universities and colleges in divesting in energy sectors identified by scientists as the primary contributors to global warming.

Curran said about 5 percent, or close to $35 million, of the current pool will be moved out of selected investments on a Carbon Tracker 200 list related to coal and fossil fuels. Curran emphasized the university will continue to hold some industry investments.

“This is not every coal or oil company. This is a group that holds large reserves and could have a tremendous impact on the environment,” Curran said.

Though small in the face of a $1.6 trillion invested last year in global energy supply, UD’s divestment is a symbolic step that continues the university’s commitment to furthering sustainability and protecting human rights, according to the Rev. Martin Solma, provincial of the Marianist Province of the U.S., UD Board of Trustees vice chair, and member of the investment committee.

Solma said a belief in the climate science, Catholic teaching, and Marianist pedagogy all informed the decision.

“Ultimately, the tremendous moral imperative to act in accordance with our mission far outweighed any other considerations,” Solma said.

The decision also was influenced by the pro-environment stance taken by the current pope, according to Solma.

The investment committee worked with consultants in a complicated year-long process that at times became heated but resulted in a well-thought-out plan that won’t have negative financial impact on the university, Solma said.

The full Board of Trustees approved the plan unanimously in May.

Divestment in domestic holdings will begin immediately. The entire process could last 18-months because it will take longer to winnow international holdings nested in hedge funds, Curran said.

The movement gained national attention in May when Stanford University became the most prominent university to divest itself of coal companies. Students have been arrested recently protesting the issue at other universities around the country although no protests happened at UD.

Jarred White, a 2014 civil engineering graduate and former president of the University of Dayton Sustainability Club said everyone associated with the university deserves part of the credit.

“It’s kind of cool to see the efforts that we put forth gaining some traction,” White said. “A lot of students like to get their hands dirty, so to speak, and work on projects with faculty and the administration to try and get these projects implemented.”

Shawn Bennett, a spokesman for Energy in Depth Ohio said the university traded long-term stocks for a short-term public relations boost.

“Unfortunately they’re doing this for the sake of good PR and they’re not living in the real confines of how the world works,” Bennett said. “I’m not too sure how attractive it would be to gain prospective students with the slogan, ‘Bring your own candles and your sub-zero sleeping bags.’”