Cornell CFO Cancels Meeting with Climate Group After Learning of Plans to Demand Fossil Fuel Divestment

Joanne DeStefano, the University’s executive vice president and chief financial officer, canceled her planned meeting with Climate Justice Cornell to draft steps toward a more sustainable campus after learning that the group intended to present a series of demands to her. Although DeStefano herself encouraged CJC members to set up the meeting, she canceled the gathering after reading a copy of the meeting agenda attached to an email to meeting attendees by Elizabeth Chi ’18, ex-campaign coordinator of CJC. “I agreed to this meeting as a courtesy to share our policies and to help you to understand the Board of Trustees’ position regarding divestment,” DeStefano wrote to Chi in an email, adding, “I must say that I am extremely disappointed to learn that your purpose for the meeting is to make a series of demands.”

The group used the word “demand” in its agenda as indication of some of its priorities and goals, according to Jenny Xie ’20, a member of the financial task force for CJC. “My stomach dropped as soon as I read the email,” said Julie Kapuvari ’19, CJC member. “We had been preparing for weeks.

Cornell Trustees Vote Against Fossil Fuel Divestment

“In extraordinary circumstances, the trustees may determine that direct financial investment in particular companies associates Cornell with actions or inactions that violate the University’s most deeply held values and, therefore, should be avoided, regardless of potential financial return,” she said.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Fossil Fuel Divestment

The following is an open letter to President Elizabeth Garrett and the Cornell Board of Trustees:
We write you in your capacity as leaders, both of this community and of others: You have before you, in our five assemblies’ resolutions, an opportunity and a mandate to lead. It is plain that we can never truly lead on the issue of climate change so long as we are invested in and very literally banking on its intensification. It is equally plain that a leadership indifferent to climate change is increasingly problematic. Each of the past three decades has been the hottest on record. Our planet is now warmer than it has been in 250,000 years.