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University of Michigan to freeze new investments in fossil fuel industry

U-M student speaks at regents meeting
Caroline Llanes
Michigan Radio

The Board of Regents of the University of Michigan announced at a meeting on Thursday that it will put a freeze on new fossil fuel investments. This means that it will not make new investments in the fossil fuel industry while it studies its own investment policy.

The announcement came from Regent Mark Bernstein, right after U-M Central Student Government President Ben Gerstein discussed a Big Ten resolution, where student governments from Big Ten universities called on their institutions to freeze fossil fuel investments.

“We will not bring forward new direct investments in fossil fuel companies while we study the investment policy of the University of Michigan with regard to all fossil fuel investments in a deliberative, thorough, inclusive and responsible manner,” Bernstein said.

Henry Schnaidt is a senior at the University of Michigan, and is involved with the Climate Action Movement. He spoke at the Board of Regents meeting on Thursday.

“We thank the regents for their commitment to an immediate freeze on new fossil fuel investments. Given this commitment, we call on the university to commit to full divestment by Earth Day 2020.”

Other faculty and staff spoke during the meeting to express their concerns, particularly on climate change and fossil fuels.

Adam Simon, a professor of earth and environmental sciences, presented the regents with a petition signed by more than a thousand faculty members, expressing what he called “concern about the lack of meaningful action being taken to address our impact on the earth’s climate.”

“Leadership and broad institutional commitment are essential now. The cultural shift cannot come without strong leadership from President Schlissel. We must act now. A consistent message must be heard by every senior official and their staff that all decisions need to reflect the University of Michigan’s intention to achieve carbon neutrality as quickly as possible.”

Regent Paul Brown said the time the regents spend in these public meetings is a very small fraction of the time they consider issues like fossil fuel investments. 

“I agree with your frustration in terms of timeline, but since I’ve been on the board, I’ve started to appreciate my father’s words, which are, ‘Every complex problem has a simple solution, which is usually wrong.’ But these problems do have solutions, and it is our job, no matter how complex they are, to come up with them and implement them, and we’re going to continue to try hard to do that.”

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Caroline is a third year history major at the University of Michigan. She also works at The Michigan Daily, where she has been a copy editor and an opinion columnist. When she’s not at work, you can find her down at Argo Pond as a coxswain for the Michigan men’s rowing team. Caroline loves swimming, going for walks, being outdoors, cooking, trivia, and spending time with her two-year-old cat, Pepper.
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