Stu­dents urge Yale to di­vest from fos­sil fu­els

Po­lice ar­rest 48 in con­nec­tion with protests

The Day - - REGION - By BEN­JAMIN KAIL Day Staff Writer

New Haven — It took Alexan­der Ro­driguez two weeks to con­tact his mother and grand­mother af­ter Hur­ri­cane Maria tore through Puerto Rico last year.

“They were vic­tims of a cli­mate change dis­as­ter,” he said, call­ing them lucky for get­ting home to Con­necti­cut af­ter a month while “there are still peo­ple in Puerto Rico with­out elec­tric­ity and with­out clean wa­ter.”

Ro­driguez, an ac­tivist with Chispa — a Latino com­mu­nity or­ga­niz­ing pro­gram of the League of Con­ser­va­tion Vot­ers — charged up a crowd of more than 100 Yale Univer­sity stu­dents brav­ing the bit­ing cold Fri­day to protest the school’s in­vest­ments in the fos­sil fuel in­dus­try and Puerto Rico debt hold­ings.

“This is so piv­otal,” he said. “If we don’t keep push­ing for a 100-per­cent re­new­ably run econ­omy that’s eq­ui­table to com­mu­ni­ties of color and low-in­come peo­ple, then we’re leav­ing our most vul­ner­a­ble be­hind.”

Or­ga­nized by Fos­sil Free Yale, De­spierta Boricua (Yale’s Puerto Ri­can stu­dent as­so­ci­a­tion), and other school and New Haven groups, the rally saw stu­dents march through cam­pus to the school’s in­vest­ment of­fice, where dozens of stu­dents held a sit-in.

Po­lice said they ar­rested 48 stu­dents and New Haven ac­tivists in con­nec­tion with the protests.

While Yale is a lead­ing univer­sity on cli­mate change re­search and ac­tivism, stu­dents have pushed the ad­min­is­tra­tion for sev­eral years to elim­i­nate any fos­sil fuel in­vest­ments from the school’s $29 bil­lion en­dow­ment.

A re­cent Se­cu­ri­ties and Ex­change Com­mis­sion fil­ing shows Yale has a $78 mil­lion stake in Colorado-based nat­u­ral gas pro­ducer An­tero Re­sources. The Yale Daily News re­cently re­ported the school in­vested as much as $230 mil­lion in An­tero Re­sources but has sold many shares as the stock price dropped since 2016. Fos­sil Free Yale says the school has about $600 mil­lion more in­vested in the fos­sil fuel in­dus­try.

At least three of Yale’s in­vest­ment man­agers have hold­ings in Puerto Rico’s debt: Bau­post, Fortress In­vest­ment Group, and Carmel As­set Man-

age­ment, ac­cord­ing to Martin Man of Fos­sil Free Yale. The pro­test­ers called on the univer­sity to can­cel any Puerto Rico debt, par­tic­u­larly as Puerto Ri­cans are suf­fer­ing in the af­ter­math of Maria.

“It’s di­rect hypocrisy to teach us so­cial jus­tice and to fund cli­mate change re­search di­rectly with prof­its from the fos­sil fuel in­dus­try and Puerto Ri­can debt,” Man said in an in­ter­view Fri­day.

Yale spokesman Tom Con­roy said the univer­sity does not dis­close in­vest­ments. He noted that “the mem­bers of the Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee on In­vestor Re­spon­si­bil­ity in­clude fac­ulty, stu­dents, staff and alumni.”

Con­roy also pointed to Yale’s more than 50-year his­tory of ad­dress­ing the eth­i­cal re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of in­vestors.

In 2014, the Yale Cor­po­ra­tion Com­mit­tee on In­vestor Re­spon­si­bil­ity de­cided to ad­dress the fos­sil fuel in­vest­ment is­sue through share­holder en­gage­ment rather than di­vest­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to the school’s eth­i­cal in­vest­ment pol­icy, the In­vest­ments Of­fice asked Yale’s En­dow­ment man­agers not to in­vest “in com­pa­nies that refuse to ac­knowl­edge the so­cial and fi­nan­cial costs of cli­mate change and that fail to take eco­nom­i­cally sen­si­ble steps to re­duce green­house gas emis­sions.”

On Puerto Rico’s debt, the Yale Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee on In­vestor Re­spon­si­bil­ity con­cluded in Jan­uary “that di­vest­ment from Puerto Ri­can debt is not war­ranted when an in­vestor is abid­ing by the ap­pli­ca­ble le­gal frame­work in a process in which the debtor’s in­ter­ests are ap­pro­pri­ately rep­re­sented.”

Ac­cord­ing to records made avail­able on the school’s ethics web­site, ACIR Chair Jonathan Macey has pointed out that there have been no al­le­ga­tions of un­eth­i­cal debt col­lec­tion ef­forts or prac­tices with re­gard to Puerto Rico. Macey also has noted that in­vest­ment man­agers have fidu­ciary du­ties to in­vestors likely pre­vent­ing them from uni­lat­er­ally for­giv­ing Puerto Rico’s debt.

Robert Dubrow, a long­time fac­ulty mem­ber in the Yale School of Pub­lic Health, said di­vest­ment by one of the most premier univer­si­ties in the world be a “pow­er­ful moral state­ment that would re­ver­ber­ate world­wide.”

“The world needs to go on a crash diet to get off of car­bon,” he said to cheers. “The physics of cli­mate change de­mand we end this force feed­ing of car­bon by the fos­sil fuel in­dus­try and break the stran­gle­hold on cli­mate pol­icy. It’s not OK to be com­plicit in this force feed­ing.”

BEN­JAMIN KAIL/THE DAY

More than 100 Yale stu­dents and ac­tivists marched Fri­day to the school’s in­vest­ments of­fice to call on ad­min­is­tra­tors to di­vest from the fos­sil fuel in­dus­try and Puerto Ri­can debt hold­ings.

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