On Jan. 24, Chancellor Chopp and Chair of the Board of Trustees, Doug Scrivner, sent out an email informing students, faculty and parents of the outcome of the January board meeting regarding the potential for DU to divest from fossil fuels. After holding seven public hearings on the issue, brought to the board’s attention by Divest DU—a student organization urging the divestment of fossil fuels—the Board decided not to divest. This is disappointing, as students have urged divestment for years now to no avail. Other actions taken towards sustainability move DU in a positive direction, but the contrast to this decision is a contradictory move.
Board of Trustees member Catherine Shopneck says the decision not to divest is for two main reasons.
“One reason is that it wasn’t going to have a direct impact in any way. Divestment as a strategy to combat global warming wasn’t going to either reduce the amount of energy consumed by people and also our divestment wouldn’t have been able to have a significant impact on the prosperity or the fortunes of any of the major energy companies,” said Shopneck. “My second point was they basically were hoping that this would somehow stigmatize the industry. I had some trouble with that, of stigmatizing the people that work in the energy field.”
Shopneck was also part of the team that created a task force on fossil fuel divestment that is to address issues of sustainability and climate change. The task force states what the university will do in regard to these concerns and includes a revolving “green fund.”
“We’re excited about the green fund—it’s a step in the right direction, but we are still committed to demanding a full divestment,” said Internal Coordinator of Divest DU Callyn Gonzalez, a senior geography major. “If we have the green fund and we’re going in a more sustainable direction, it doesn’t make sense to invest in an industry that does the exact opposite.”
The divestment campaign at DU began in 2013. Four years later, the Board and Chancellor are finally listening to and taking these student demands seriously. Shopneck recalls feeling the need to seriously consider such requests and being impressed by the Divest DU members.
“They’re smart, they’re articulate, they did an enormous amount of research,” said Shopneck.
However, Gonzalez’s assertions ring true with many members of the DU community—while big steps have been taken to address climate change threats, investment in fossil fuels is still a massive student complaint that continues to be unaddressed.
“We are disappointed that the board won’t take responsibility for ensuring we have sustainable features. This affects our futures more than it affects them,” said Gonzalez.
The decision not to divest does not uphold DU’s values, as the university states that part of its mission is to “contribute to a sustainable common good.” Instating a green fund and moving towards a sustainable future does not align with continued investment in fossil fuels. In fact, it is rather hypocritical for the university to “go green” in some areas but refuse, despite a consistent group of student voices, to stop investing in fossil fuels. Further, while efforts to acknowledge student voices were made, the students’ request was still not met four years later. I would hope that in the future, the university would reconsider this decision and uphold its true values.