The Yale Corporation Committee on Investor Responsibility (CCIR) has decided to delay its decision on whether the University should divest its assets from fossil fuel companies.
After months of debate, petitions and formal dialogue between administrators, faculty and students, the highest body governing Yale’s investments decided to delay any decision, according to Patrick Reed ’15, treasurer of Fossil Free Yale, the leading student group advocating divestment. University President Peter Salovey said more time is required for the CCIR to reach a definitive decision.
Late last week, the CCIR met privately with the Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility (ACIR) — a committee of eight professors, students and alumni that evaluates ethical issues surrounding the University’s investments — to continue discussions on the possibility of divestment. As the ACIR had made a presentation to the CCIR on divestment in February, members of Fossil Free Yale said they expected the CCIR to have made a decision on the issue of divestment either by last week’s meeting or in the near future.
But Reed said the CCIR decided not to issue a decision on divestment after last week’s meeting. He believes the group has not rescheduled another gathering, Reed added.
“I can assure you, however, that the CCIR members are engaged in a substantial conversation with members of the ACIR,” Salovey wrote in an email. “The fossil fuel issue that has been raised is complex and so it requires careful deliberation.”
Law School professor and chair of the ACIR Jonathan Macey said he was not privy to the CCIR’s discussions, adding that the members of the CCIR gave him no indication they were going to suggest the University divest its assets from fossil fuel companies at this time.
Fossil Free Yale members interviewed emphasized their commitment to the issue of divestment and characterized the CCIR’s conduct as unacceptable.
“All of us are extremely disappointed by the inaction on the part of the CCIR,” said Mitch Barrows ’16, the outreach coordinator for Fossil Free Yale. “I personally believe — with many others — that this delay is unacceptable and demonstrates that the Corporation doesn’t recognize the urgency of climate change. The Yale Corporation doesn’t have a great track record on incorporating student voice.”
Barrows added that members of Fossil Free Yale fear that the CCIR will release a rejection of the group’s proposal over the summer so as to avoid negative student reactions. He said that Fossil Free Yale is working to plan demonstrations to show the Yale Corporation “that our voices will not be swept under the rug.”
Fossil Free Yale member Alexandra Barlowe ’17 said it is not surprising that the Corporation has not made a decision yet. Still, she added that the lack of an explicit rejection is promising.
Hannah Nesser ’16, the communications director of Fossil Free Yale, said the group remains committed to seeing the issue of divestment through to the end.
“We’ve been working with the ACIR for over a year, and, during that time, our climate crisis has only become more dire, so I’m dismayed that the CCIR has so far declined to take action,” Gabe Levine ’14, another Fossil Free Yale member, said in an email. “But we know that 83 percent of undergraduates support our proposal, and we intend to keep fighting to make sure their voices are heard.”
Gabe Rissman ’16 said he remains hopeful that the CCIR will continue to meet and not leave the issue undecided over the summer.
He added that Harvard University President Drew Gilpin Faust announced on Monday that the school’s endowment will become a signatory to the Carbon Disclosure Project’s climate change program, a nonprofit organization that publishes data on companies’ carbon emissions.
Members of Fossil Free Yale have asked companies to disclose the emissions they generate relative to their energy production, a metric designed by the Carbon Disclosure Project, to give Yale an empirical estimate of each company’s impact.
Rissman said it was frustrating that Harvard officially endorsed the Carbon Disclosure Project’s climate change program before Yale but added that he is glad Harvard is working toward similar goals as Yale.
“[This step underscores] our growing efforts to consider environmental, social and governance issues among the many factors that inform our investment decision-making, with a paramount concern for how the endowment can best support the academic aspirations and educational opportunities that define our distinctive purposes as a university,” Faust wrote in her announcement.
Fossil Free Yale’s most recent demonstration was Friday outside Woodbridge Hall.
Correction: April 9
Due to an editing error, previous version of this article incorrectly stated that University President Peter Salovey serves on the CCIR.