UMass Is Divesting from Direct Fossil Fuel Holdings

The University of Massachusetts is the first major public university to do so.


Photo via / David Parsons

The University of Massachusetts is taking a big step to fight climate change.

Officials announced this week that the university will be divesting its endowment from direct holdings in fossil fuels, making UMass the first major public university to do so.

According to the school’s website, the Board of Directors of the UMass Foundation unanimously voted in favor of the decision. The Foundation is a separate, not-for profit organization that looks over the endowment, which was valued at $770 million at the conclusion of the latest fiscal year.

The Foundation voted last year to divest from direct holdings in coal companies, which was in response to a petition from a fossil fuel divestment student group. The decision was endorsed by the UMass Board of Trustees, which called climate change “a serious threat to the planet.”

“This action is consistent with the principals that have guided our university since its Land Grant inception and reflects our commitment to take on the environmental challenges that confront us all,” UMass President Marty Meehan said . “Important societal change often begins on college campuses and it often begins with students. I’m proud of the students and the entire University community for putting UMass at the forefront of a vital movement, one that has been important to me throughout my professional life.”

Protests calling for divestment were held at UMass Amherst last month, and 34 students were arrested as part of a week-long sit-in. Meehan later met with two student representatives of the UMass Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign, and said after the meeting that he would work on a recommendation for the university to add to its coal divestment plan by getting rid of other endowment direct investments from the fossil fuel industry.

Meehan announced on Wednesday that he plans to tap into the President’s Science and Technology Initiative Fund in order to find funding for sustainable, green technology projects. He also said that the university will have more involvement in offshore wind energy.

UMass Board of Trustees Chairman Victor Woolridge revealed that he will ask the Board to endorse the Foundation’s decision on fossil fuel divestment when it meets next month.