Faculty members respond to Board’s COP21 letter, push full divestment

Nov. 11, 2015, 1:14 a.m.

Six faculty members released a letter on Wednesday urging more immediate and comprehensive divestment from fossil fuels by the University, citing the petition signed by 376 faculty members last March. This most recent letter was written in response to an earlier letter written by the Board of Trustees and President John Hennessy in anticipation of the Paris climate negotiations to take place in December.

The faculty’s response was drafted and signed by associate professor of English Paula Moya and professors Paul Ehrlich in the biology department, Mark Jacobson ’87 M.S. ’88 in civil and environmental engineering, Shelley Fisher Fishkin in the humanities and English, Elizabeth Tallent in English and David Palumbo-Liu of comparative literature.

According to these faculty members, Hennessy and the Board’s statement is not responsive enough to Fossil Free Stanford’s divestment demands.

“No criteria for divestment are specified, no timetable for the research is given, and no deadline for decisions has been indicated,” the letter reads.

While Hennessy and the Board of Trustees have said they will evaluate fossil fuel companies on a case-by-case basis, the response letter stressed that this commitment does not convey enough urgency in regard to climate change issues. According to the authors, the Board has thus far also ignored the input of the larger group of faculty members that called for divestment from fossil fuels last January.

The professors concluded their message by making a moral claim on behalf of students and future generations that will be faced with the impacts of climate change.

“We therefore advocate comprehensive fossil-fuel divestment as a clear ethical assertion that the University holds students’ well-being above any other value,” they said.

Although the professors wrote the letter independently, they are also working alongside efforts led by Fossil Free Stanford, which, along with over 200 student and faculty signatories, pledged earlier this month to engage in civil disobedience if Stanford did not commit to full divestment by the Paris negotiations.

According to Fossil Free member Michael Penuelas ’15 M.S. ’16, the student side of the movement has engaged a number of faculty members for strategic advice.

“We know that Stanford takes the urgency of climate change seriously, but we think that Stanford needs to take a bigger stance,” Penuelas said, referencing comprehensive divestment.  “We need to declare that not only are we going to work in our own little part of the world, but [that we will] leverage our power as an institution.”


Contact Ada Throckmorton at adastat ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Ada Statler '18 is an earth systems major hailing from Kansas City (on the Kansas side, not Missouri). She's most passionate about environmental journalism, but cares about all things campus-related.

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