August 24, 2016

Two Cornell Alumni Successfully Petition for Trustee Candidacy

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After gathering over 400 petition signatures, Linda Copman ’83 and Joe Rowland ’73 have earned their status as write-in candidates for the March 2017 alumni-at-large positions on the Board of Trustees.

Copman and Rowland said they plan to advance the push for carbon neutrality and put discussion of fossil fuel divestment back onto the table.

The two nominees launched their petition last June with the goal of continuing efforts to make Cornell carbon neutral by 2035 and revising the Board of Trustees’ position on divestment.

Traditionally, the Alumni-Elected Trustees candidates must be nominated when the Committee on Alumni Trustee Nominations reviews the profiles and select a small pool of potential candidates, according to the University.

The ultimate selection of eight top candidates is made by the Board of Trustees Chair — “who then offers candidacy to those on the list in the order of their ranking; first four to reply positively run on the ballot.”

“My goal is to respectfully continue the conversation, based on the truth that the global scientific community continues to reveal,” said Copman, who helped develop Cornell’s Climate Action Plan. “I believe that there are opportunities to find agreement moving forward, by engaging in respectful and honest dialogue. As a Cornell Trustee, I am prepared to do the work necessary to find the best way forward,” she said.

Rowland called for fossil fuel divestment last year, emphasizing that it is “time to move on.”

“In the case of divestment, we are witnessing the revocation of a ‘social license’ which the fossil fuel industry has enjoyed — and often abused — for the past 250 years,” Rowland said. “This license has brought us to where we stand today with all that is good, bad and ugly about the fossil fuel era.”

Copman and Rowland both expressed a desire to work with the board to find a viable solution to this dilemma.

“Achieving climate neutrality will require open-minded dialogue, informed debate and full engagement with the economic, social and environmental challenges we face,” Copman said. “Coming together to address environmental and related challenges is something we need to do, and the sooner we begin this process, the better.”

Prof. Bruce Monger, earth and atmospheric sciences, expressed continued support for the two nominees.

“I think Joe and Linda can inspire the Trustees to rise to this very special moment in history with the courage and vision to make Cornell a leader on the issue of climate change in terms of research and education and to have Cornell lead by example,” Monger said.

Monger launched a letter-writing campaign last February to the late President Elizabeth Garrett after she announced that the University would not be able to fulfill its carbon neutrality pledge. Provost Michael Kotlikoff has since pledged that Cornell will remain committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2035, The Sun previously reported.

Although Copman and Rowland have worked hard to get on the ballot, Monger stressed that their fight is not over yet.

“Getting on the ballot is a great success,” Monger said. “That in itself is a big statement by Cornell alumni. But there is still the big challenge ahead of getting the word out to the Cornell Alumni that it is important for them to take the time to vote when they receive their ballot.”

The election for the two alumni-at-large positions is set to take place in spring 2017.