Vaibhav Sharma, Photo Editor

On April 22, all eight Ivy League student body presidents signed a joint resolution calling on Ivy League institutions to cut all financial ties with fossil fuel companies.

Authored by the Student Sustainability Association at the University of Pennsylvania, the resolution demands that all Ivy League institutions commit to a moratorium on new investments in the fossil fuel industry, as well as full divestment of endowment funds from fossil fuel companies.

“I was so excited to sign on, as the movement to divest from fossil fuels extends far beyond Yale,” said former Yale College Council President Aliesa Bahri ’22, whose term ended on Friday night. “When students across universities collaborate, anything is possible. I am looking forward to seeing our next administration build on this initiative and our relationships with other universities.”

According to SSAP co-chair Vyshnavi Kosigishroff, who is a junior at the University of Pennsylvania, the resolution was inspired by a similar divestment resolution signed by the student body presidents of Big 10 Conference universities in January 2020.

Kosigishroff said that divestment efforts at the University of Pennsylvania had “hit a wall,” and SSAP decided to bring its advocacy to student body presidents at Penn and other Ivies in order to emphasize the widespread support for full divestment.

“All 8 Ivy League presidents signing on shows that this is a reasonable and widely popular ask,” Kosigishroff wrote in an email to the News. “Elected student body presidents are rarely activists trying to push an agenda, so their participation helped in legitimizing divestment as a feasible campaign and institutional action.”

Kosigishroff noted that while committing to moratoriums or freezes on investments in the fossil fuel industry is a “fine start,” SSAP is ultimately advocating for Ivy League institutions to fully divest from fossil fuel companies, adding that the Ivy League is complicit in the climate crisis until this goal is met.

Similarly, executive chair of the Yale Student Environmental Coalition and former sustainability co-chair of the YCC Katie Schlick ’22 emphasized the importance of holding Ivy League institutions to a high standard on the issue of sustainability.

“We look to the Ivies to lead on so much,” Schlick said. “They feed into leaders in pretty much every industry. I’m not saying that that’s necessarily the way it should be, and I think we need to value voices coming from all different backgrounds, but this is the way world works right now, and so I just think that it’s ridiculous that we wouldn’t also then expect the Ivy League to lead on this topic of existential and immediate importance.”

Co-President of YSEC Jamie Chan ’23 referenced the United Nations’ goal to achieve global carbon neutrality by 2050, adding that bold action toward carbon neutrality is necessary to meet this standard.

According to Chan, Ivy League divestment from the fossil fuel industry would not only disempower fossil fuel companies from contributing to the climate crisis, but also give universities the opportunity to reinvest in clean energy infrastructure.

“It would be a powerful statement that would ring across the nation and the world, that fossil fuels do not have a place in our vision of a better future,” Chan said. “Ivy League institutions should reevaluate where their funding is coming from and whether that poses a contradiction to the values that their education is founded upon.”

In October 2020, University President Peter Salovey announced the formation of the Committee on Fossil Fuel Investment Principles, an advisory body to the Yale Corporation on the ethical implementation of fossil fuel investment principles.

Schlick referenced a report released by the CFFIP last month that recommended an updated set of ethical investment principles to the University and was approved by the Board of Trustees.

“We know that the CFFIP has recommended that the [Advisory Committee on Investment Responsibility] put out its initial list of companies that Yale has named as bad actors in the fossil fuel industry and those should be listed for divestment as of June,” Schlick said.

However, Schlick noted that YSEC perceives all fossil fuel companies as “inherently bad actors” and is currently advocating for the hiring of full-time University staff members to ensure that the planned divestments are actually carried out.

Ben Grobman ’21, an organizer for Yale’s Endowment Justice Coalition, a student divestment advocacy group, said that while the new CFFIP guidelines were a “huge win,” climate activists on campus plan to continue their advocacy for full divestment.

 “This shows that all of our ongoing efforts and all the publicity that we’ve been working towards is effective, but we also acknowledge that no money has been moved, and that we’re really advocating for full divestment,” Grobman said.

SSAP’s press release discussing the details of the joint resolution is available online.

 

Correction, May 10: A previous version of this story quoted Schlick as saying “I think we need to evaluate voices coming from all different backgrounds.” In fact, Schlick said “value,” not “evaluate.” The article has been updated.

LUCY HODGMAN
Lucy Hodgman covers the Yale College Council. Originally from Brooklyn, New York, she is a sophomore in Grace Hopper majoring in English.