The University of Wisconsin Faculty Senate passed a resolution Monday calling on the UW Foundation to stop investing in fossil fuel companies.
In a 49-13 vote, the Faculty Senate took a resolute stance on institutional divestment from fossil fuel investments, citing the urgency of the climate crisis and the acceleration of the divestment movement as key reasons to pass the resolution.
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The Faculty Senate previously decided not to push the UW Foundation to divest in 2014, stating the action would be a “political movement that is unnecessarily divisive,” according to the Wisconsin State Journal.
In response to the passage of the UW Faculty Senate Climate Divestment and Procurement Resolution, the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association released a statement offering background to the investment strategies of the UW Foundation.
Though the statement did not take a stance for or against the resolution, it said donors generally expect WFAA to work to achieve “the highest possible return on their funds (without taking undue risk) in order to grow the value of their investment in the university.”
Studies indicate business, investor and economic trends are shifting significantly toward a lower-carbon energy sector. UW Divestment Coalition co-founder and UW-Stevens Point student Molly McGuire said members of the UWDC have done research on the profitability of fossil fuels.
“I’ve seen a lot of studies showing that fossil fuels are not a strong investment and our economy and our society is moving towards these new progressive sustainable options, so you’ll see this recent trend of fossil fuels doing poorly in the market,” McGuire said. “Some people say you can’t justify that because it’s such a short amount of time. But our economy is shifting and we’re moving toward something else.”
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The UW-Madison Faculty Senate cited the UWDC in the resolution and summarized the four main demands of the UWDC, which include UW transparency and disclosure of all UW fossil fuel investments, cessation of all new investments in oil, gas and coal companies, the sale of existing investments tied to oil, gas and coal in the next three to five years, and the investment in clean energy solutions.
McGuire said the main objective is transparency from the UW Foundation to know exactly how much money is being invested in fossil fuels. To reach this goal, McGuire said the recent support from UW-Madison faculty is encouraging news.
“It definitely means a lot because most of our investments are held at the UW Foundation in Madison,” McGuire said. “Madison is our key stakeholder. We have the 13 main campuses and the other branch campuses, but we do not hold nearly as much power as the main campus in Madison… it feels like the movement is much bigger [compared to 2014] and maybe they have a shot of making [divestment] happen.”