Stanford School of Sustainability launches amid criticisms over fossil fuel funding

Sept. 1, 2022, 8:55 p.m.

Stanford launched the Doerr School of Sustainability, the University’s new hub for research and innovation focused on advancing the long-term prosperity of the planet, on Thursday. The opening comes amid criticism about the school receiving funding from fossil fuel companies and over seventy years after Stanford launched its last new school, the School of Humanities and Sciences, in 1948. 

The Doerr school’s Dean Arun Majumdar is currently “conducting a listening tour to hear perspectives from faculty, students, and staff” on the issue of engaging with oil and gas companies, wrote University spokesperson Dee Mostofi in a statement to The Daily.

According to some students and activists, the acceptance of ‘fossil fuel money’ to fund programs and research counteracts the school’s mission of finding solutions to address climate change. Following the introduction of the school’s dean in May, Stanford students, faculty, and affiliates wrote an open letter to Majumdar, calling on the school to “decline funding from fossil fuel companies.” 

Majumdar wrote in May that “the School does not plan to seek funding for oil and gas companies for its general operations” but acknowledged that the school will not decline financial, licensing, and educational engagement with such companies, in a message to the community.

“I feel it would be prudent to be open to engaging such companies while remaining vigilant that their values align with ours,” he wrote.

According to Mostofi, the Doerr School “represents a new approach for how an academic institution can tackle challenges associated with climate and sustainability.” The Doerr school’s approach bridges several academic departments, differing scholarly viewpoints and interdisciplinary institutes and includes a Sustainability Accelerator which drives contributions to policymaking and technological advancement, Mostofi wrote.

The School hopes to hire “more than 60 new faculty members in emerging areas of sustainability and add degree programs” in the near future, Mostofi wrote.

Arun Majumdar
Dean Arun Majumdar socializes with guests after giving remarks at the Doerr School’s launch. (Photo courtesy of Harry Gregory/Stanford University)

Named after donors John and Ann Doerr, who contributed $1.1 billion to its development, the school currently offers undergraduate degrees, graduate degrees and Ph.D. programs in Earth Systems, Geological Sciences, Geophysics, Energy Resources Engineering and Civil and Environmental Engineering, as well as a new interdisciplinary program in environment and resources for graduate and Ph.D. students.

After students and faculty congregated for a celebratory brunch outside of the school’s new location on West Campus, they heard remarks from Majumdar. Transition leadership Kam Moler and Stephan Graham also spoke at the event.

Graham previously served as the Dean of the School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences, now a part of the Doerr school.

Mostofi wrote that the University is “excited to work together as a community to educate students, create knowledge, and drive solutions” through the Doerr school.

Contact Oriana at news ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.

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