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Cornell Student Assembly Passes Resolution to Divest from Fossil Fuels In Landslide Vote
Ithaca, NY - February 10 - Who:KyotoNOW!, Cornell’s student climate justice organiztion; Cornell Student Assembly; Resolution co-sponsors Sarah Balik (Student Assembly), Anna-Lisa Castle (KyotoNOW!), and Becca Macies (KyotoNOW!)
What: The Student Assembly passed Resolution 32: Toward a Responsible Endowment in a landslide “sense of the body” vote of 22 to 2. This resolution calls for full divestment of Cornell’s $5+ billion endowment from the fossil fuel industry by 2020 and for 30% of those divested funds to be reinvested in sustainable options by 2030. A “sense of the body” vote is an official endorsement from the student body, and not legislative. The final decision to divest is left to administration and the Board of Trustees. However, now that this resolution has passed, President Skorton must respond within 30 days.
In response to concerns that divestment would put the endowment at risk, resolution co-sponsor and former KyotoNOW! president, Anna-Lisa Castle defended the resolution, “We are not asking the university to divest tomorrow. Rather, we are asking the trustees to begin a responsible transition away from fossil fuels. It’s a step toward aligning our investment practices with our ideals as an institution. This is also pragmatic in the long-term, given that international commitments to mitigate carbon emissions will deliver a major blow to the fossil fuel industry.”
Fossil fuel divestment is a national movement with over 200 active campaigns across the country. Students have cited this as the moral imperative of their generation. Sterling College, Unity College, and Hampshire College have already committed to fossil fuel divestment.
When: This vote took place on Thursday evening, February 6th, 2013
“In the long term, everyone, including the University will have to transition away from fossil fuels as we discover new ways to power the planet, and I personally think it’s great that students and the SA are fighting for a way to put us on the right side of history. Although they have to understand that we might not be able to act immediately, I’m happy to see them proposing guidelines for the investment office in order to make us take actions that are both good for Cornell and the entirety of humanity in the long run.”
-Alex Bores, Student Trustee
“I’m really excited that this resolution passed, not necessarily because I think that Cornell administrators are going to be really willing to accept our suggestions right away, but because I think that as students we have the opportunity to influence our university and in this case, we need to do just that. This might not happen tomorrow, but maybe 5 years from now we’ll come back as alumni and smile knowing that we’ve had an impact. I also think that divestment is a powerful statement and through doing this we might be able to influence other universities and institutions to do the same.”
-Sarah Balik, Student Assembly Representative, Chair of the Environmental Committee
“It’s a really strong statement from the Student Assembly and the student body that they want to see the University invest in companies that have more sustainable practices and they don’t want to see their alma mater investing in an industry that could have harmful effects on the earth for years to come.”
-Adam Gitlin, Student Assembly President
“It would be hypocritical for the University to claim a commitment to carbon neutrality without taking our investment decisions into account. With $400 billion collectively in university endowments, students have an incredible opportunity to grow the green economy and hasten a shift away from fossil fuels. As primary stakeholders, we have the right and responsibility to advocate for a just and sustainable future.”
-Julia Fiore, KyotoNOW! member