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Salem State University Awarded $57,000 for Divesting from Fossil Fuels

University to establish two student climate and social justice scholarships

Salem State University — the only institution from the 30 participating schools in the Multi-School Fossil Free Divestment Fund (MSFFDF) to fully divest from fossil fuels received $57,000 — all of the fund's holdings.

As no other participating school in the MSFFDF divested by the end of the December 2018 deadline, Salem State University was awarded among 30 schools’ escrowed donations.

Participating students, faculty, alumni, and parents who joined together to create a multi-school donor-advised divestment fund thanked Salem State University for standing on the right side of history.

The MSFFDF presented the $57,000 check to Salem State University officials on April 11, 2019. Salem State University will use the funds to establish two endowed student scholarships – a climate justice, and social justice undergraduate award. Sunrise Salem a student climate justice group also received a donation. 

Professor Noel Healy of Salem State University stated, “Now more than ever it’s critical that universities take a moral stand against the obstructionism of the fossil fuel industry”. Divestment, he added, is “a tactic, which can be employed by individuals, organizations, and institutions to hold fossil fuel companies responsible for nearly 40 years of climate deception and harm. I'm very proud of Salem State University for doing the right thing". 

The fund was established in 2014 to collectively pressure universities to divest from fossil fuels. The MSFFDF allowed parents, alumni, faculty, staff, students, and others to leverage their donations to help participating universities do the right thing. On May 24, 2018 Salem State University announced it had sold the universities’ prior holdings in Carbon 200 (fossil fuel companies). This decision followed a five-year campaign by university students, faculty and alumni.

Participating MSFFDF schools included MIT, Stanford University, Northeastern University, Tufts University, Boston College, Brandeis University, Allegheny College, Amherst College, Dartmouth College, Fort Lewis College, Georgetown University, James Madison University, Reed College, St. Paul’s School, Stony Brook University, Syracuse University, Salem State University, Trinity College, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, University of Mary Washington, University of Notre Dame, University of Oregon, University of Pennsylvania, University of Rhode Island, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Wellesley College, Western Washington University, Williams College, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and Worcester State University.

Citing a March 2019 InfluenceMap study Healy, PhD, stated “The world’s 5 largest publicly owned fossil fuel companies—Exxon, BP, Shell, Chevron, and Total—spend approximately $200 million a year on lobbying to delay or block binding climate policy. The success of fossil fuels companies’ business models requires pushing the world beyond the Paris Climate warming limits.”

Healy, PhD, went on to say, “Publicly, Big Oil supports the Paris Agreement goals – behind closed doors, they lobby to delay climate action. It, therefore, isn’t surprising that the average congressional opponent of the Green New Deal has received 24 times more campaign donations from fossil fuel companies than sponsors the climate change resolution.”

Last week on September 18, 2019, the University of California System fully divested its $80 billion portfolio. Now over 1110 institutions with managed investments worth almost USD$11 trillion have committed to divest from fossil fuels.

Notable divestment commitments include the New York City Employee Retirement System, the Rockefeller Brothers and Family Funds, Republic of Ireland’s Strategic Investment Fund, the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund, Germany-based financial services giant Allianz, the World Council of Churches, Allianz, the cities of Paris, Melbourne and Oslo. The Bank of England, HSBC, Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank have all issued warnings on the risks of fossil fuel investments.

Noel Healy
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