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November 3, 2017

Ohio University Student Senate Calls for “Creation of a Plan” For Fossil Fuel Divestment

The state of Ohio has never been a hotbed for campus divestment activity, but a few students at Ohio University are attempting to reverse that trend.

Earlier this week, the Ohio University student senate passed a bill that serves as a “call for the creation of a plan for divestment in fossil fuels.”

According to the text of the bill, “Out of 82.05% of the total funds allocated in the Ohio University and The Ohio University Foundation Long-Term Investment Portfolio, 8.48% were directly invested in fossil fuels.”  The bill pushes for an analysis of the endowment and the development of a plan for divesting from fossil fuels for the 2017-2018 academic year.

As reported by the Post Athens, this is the first of two divestment bills.  “The second bill, which will be introduced later on, is to ‘take the plan from the first bill and state that this is what we want to do,’” according to Vice Commissioner of Environmental Affairs Winter Wilson.

The bill points to schools like Syracuse University, Boston University and the University of Maryland as examples of similar institutions that have committed to divesting from fossil fuels.  But as Divestment Facts has pointed out in the past, these announcements are empty gestures that don’t amount to selling much of anything.

Though this student resolution itself won’t have any bearing on the university’s decision, it’s worth watching, especially since students themselves would be directly impacted by divestment if the school did adopt a full divestment policy.

Research by Prof. Hendrik Bessembinder of Arizona State University studied the impacts fossil fuel divestment would have on students and faculty.  He found that endowment losses caused by divesting could lead to a 15 percent drop in endowment spending for academic purposes. As a result, annual tuition rates could increase by as much as $3,265 per student per year and there could be up to an 11.5 percent reduction in faculty spending, which could lead to fewer classes or increased class sizes.

There are more effective ways to help combat climate change, but fossil fuel divestment isn’t one of them.  If OU decides to divest, it will be the students who feel the effects, not the targeted companies.