After all five of Cornell’s shared governance assemblies urged Cornell’s Board of Trustees to divest the University’s endowment from fossil fuel and oil and gas companies last October, the trustees will discuss the possibility of divestment again during their meetings in New York City this weekend, according to John Carberry, senior director of University media relations.
In an interview with The Sun in November, President Elizabeth Garrett said she anticipated the trustees would come to a decision on the issue of divestment during their first meeting in 2016.
“The trustees are now putting in place a method through which they would think about these issues of divestment, because we anticipate that this is not going to be the last request for divestment stemming from a policy concern that will come before the board,” Garrett said. “So they want to put in place a way for people to understand how to present these issues to the board and a way to consider them.”
Garrett also said she believed the trustees took the views and concerns of Cornell students, faculty and staff seriously.
During the open session of their full board meeting on campus last October, the trustees heard a presentation from Prof. David Shalloway, molecular biology and genetics, who spoke on behalf of sponsors from the Student Assembly, the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, the Employee Assembly, the Faculty Senate and the University Assembly, which had all passed resolutions supporting the University’s divestment from the fossil fuel industry.
“This unanimity of campus constituencies, as voiced through their elected representatives, is unprecedented in Cornell’s history,” Shalloway said during the October meeting. “If shared governance is to have any real meaning, this unanimous decision should be respected.”
Following the presentation, the trustees spoke seriously about divestment acknowledging the large number of Cornellians that have supported the movement. Ahead of last October’s trustee meetings, a letter calling for divestment that was addressed to Garrett and the trustees gained over 1,200 signatures in just over a week of circulation, The Sun previously reported.
However, despite the trustees’ serious consideration of divestment, Garrett said that she “oppose[s] divestment in fossil fuel companies” due to the University’s need to ensure that its endowment continues to earn sufficient returns to continue to fund programs, scholarships and professorships.
“I share a lot of the concerns that those who support divestment do,” she said. “I just don’t think divestment is the right way to go about addressing those concerns.”
Additionally, Garrett said that due to Cornell’s marginal weight in the total value of the oil and gas companies, divestment is “very unlikely to have any impact on any decision by an oil and gas company or fossil fuels company.”
“The 100 oil and gas companies with the largest carbon reserves have a combined value of three trillion dollars,” she said. “Our share of them is 0.00001 percent, or 24 million.”