A growing number of student activists are pushing Tulane University to refinance its $ 3 billion endowment at the expense of fossil fuels. These activists hope that our school will follow in the footsteps of Harvard University, Boston university and the University of Minnesota, among others who all pledged to divest from fossil fuels earlier this semester.
Around the world, hundreds of institutions have ceded a total of $ 40 trillion fossil fuels, ultimately weakening businesses most responsible for global climate change.
Tulane finds itself in an incredibly unique position with respect to the climate crisis. Although we are a southern school with close links with donors and companies who have amassed their wealth through oil, we have also seen our city and community suffer tremendously from of human origin climate change.
Just a few months ago, students evacuated the campus before and after Hurricane Ida. The storm devastated the physical and social infrastructure of New Orleans, move thousands.
While you cannot directly link an individual storm to climate change, carbon emissions dramatically increase the frequency and intensity of hurricanes. Hurricane season will only further disrupt our community if humanity continues to pollute its atmosphere with greenhouse gases.
Likewise, Louisiana the economy is based on the oil and gas industry, but this same industry has far-reaching implications. The 2010 oil spill directly killed 11 people and exposed hundreds to toxic chemicals. In addition, damage from the spill to the Gulf Coast fishing and tourism industries peaked. US $ 22.7 billion. Although some better regulation of drilling was done, oil spills still regularly wreak havoc on the coast of Louisiana.
Our state has chosen to ignore the downsides of industry and continues to subsidize and support fossil fuels. Recently, Louisiana helped the Biden administration deal with legal challenges for auction our coasts to oil drilling companies. This move illustrates the state’s desperate attempt to extract short-term value from a dying and destructive industry.
Tulane senior Sahil Inaganti helped craft a student government resolution urging Tulane University to move away from fossil fuels. He hopes that, just as other schools have catalyzed the divestment movement in Tulane, the divestment from Tulane will prompt other institutions to reconsider their own investments in non-renewable energy.
“A lot of institutions in the South haven’t said anything about divestment… Tulane could be the first to lead the charge down,” said another author of the resolution, Avik Hegde.
Like a leading intellectual institution and economic power, our school divestment could certainly serve as a referendum on whether or not our state should begin the transition to a new green economy.
Last Tuesday, the undergraduate government unanimously passed its divestment resolution. Although a victory for the Divest from the Tulane movement, USG has passed two similar bills in the past decade. Students have signaled their support for divestment time and time again; unfortunately, they do not hold the levers of power.
Divest Tulane must grow from a student-only initiative if they are to create real change. Proper divestment is an incredibly complex initiative that requires extensive communication between activists and the administration. Break into Michael Fitts’ office It sounds incredibly fun, but these short bursts of sweeping passion only serve to divide the two sides.
Middlebury College divestment movement can serve as a model of activist and administrative cooperation. Nine years ago, the college launched a formal process to investigate the potential divestment of their fossil fuel endowment. Under the conditions in which activists have approached the issue holistically and with great rigor, the university organized panels and events involving administration, students and experts.
In 2019, their collaboration helped Middlebury College develop a plan phase out investments in fossil fuels while remaining loyal to their trustees. Patrick Norton, Director of Operations at Tulane University, helped facilitate these discussions while at Middlebury College as Vice President of Finance. He can be open to having a similar conversation here.
Tulane’s divestment committee has already started recruiting professors into its movement. It must continue to expand its actions beyond simple rallying for more support to students if it is to achieve real success. Polls and petitions are an admirable starting point, but our administration already knows that its student body supports progressive environmentalism.
Some committee members suggested pushing for divestment resolutions in government from faculty and graduate students. It would be a big step in effectively showing that divestment has the support of our entire community. However, the committee should also remember that pressure is only one aspect of change, not all of it.
The administration must also do more to engage with activists. Rather than occasionally sending statements about our current environmental stances, they should cultivate more transparency around our endowment and our less than pretty reliance on the fossil fuel industry.
Like Middlebury College, Tulane University should catalyze the campus-wide discussion towards divestment, using it as an opportunity to promote academic research. If, like the administration currently claims, keeping the stake in fossil fuels is really the best way to fight climate change, they should have nothing to fear from a full investigation into the possibility of divestment.
You can get more involved in the @tu_sustain divestment movement on Instagram or join the GroupMe divestment committee using the following link.