By Jared GarfinkelSpecial to the Chronicle
Last semester, a significant moment passed without much attention. For the first time in Hofstra’s history, members of student groups were able to sit in on a presentation by the chair of the Environmental Priorities Committee, Dr. Robert Brinkmann, to the Board of Trustees, which controls our endowment.
Hofstra grows its endowment by investing wisely and taking donations, but it is managed by a hedge fund in what is called a blind trust, meaning that we don’t know how much of our endowment is invested in various companies.
The presentation was held to encourage the freezing of Hofstra’s investments in fossil fuel companies and the divestment from all shares held in 200 companies from the Responsible Endowments Coalition, which promotes fossil fuel reinvestments in the community.
The current push to divest from fossil fuels is similar to the movement from a few decades ago that encouraged universities to dissociate from South Africa in order to bring attention to the human rights abuses of the apartheid government. Many universities then divested from South Africa, which helped to bring about the end of apartheid because universities, industries and governments publicly ostracized the country.
We want Hofstra University to lend its credibility to the current movement. We are fighting a network of corporations that have systematically attacked climate science and lied to the public about the impact that their products have on the environment. A company shouldn’t profit from the destruction of planet.
We are now left with a serious problem that threatens our very existence. The current business plan of the fossil fuel industry will lead to climate chaos. Our planet has a carbon budget of approximately one trillion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, about half of which we have already spent.
Fossil fuel companies have five times more carbon than we can afford to release in the atmosphere. Therefore, we need to keep 80 percent of our current reserves in the ground.
This divestment will not hurt Hofstra. We are in a position to take a leadership role in the region on this issue, and we will continue to push for ethical change to our portfolio and to build the political will for a climate action.
This move will demonstrate Hofstra’s commitment to its values of sustainability, ethics, and smart business.