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More than 100 Oregon State University faculty, staff and graduate students have called on the nonprofit foundation that supports the university to dump its financial holdings in fossil fuel companies.

In a letter to the OSU Foundation posted, the group cited the need to combat climate change by keeping oil, coal and natural gas reserves in the ground, where they won’t produce greenhouse gases that will further heat the atmosphere.

“We understand that some 6 percent of the foundation’s money is invested in fossil fuel companies, and thus the financial future of OSU, its students and its research, is currently tied to the future exploitation of reserves of coal, oil and gas which have lain underground since dinosaurs roamed the earth,” the letter says in part.

Written by OSU research associate Ben Phalan, associate professors Glencora Borradaile and Ken Winograd, the letter asks the foundation “to take a leadership role” by committing to immediately halt all new investments in the top 200 fossil fuel companies and to liquidate all holdings in these companies within three to five years.

OSU Foundation officials could not be reached for comment last week, but the organization has resisted previous calls for divestment from the activist group OSU Divest, the OSU Faculty Senate and he university’s student government.

Representatives of OSU Divest met April 19 with the foundation's executive committee, which requested that the activists provide written materials to assist the foundation in its deliberations. 

A previous meeting involving OSU Divest and the foundation's advisory committee in 2014 resulted in a rejection of OSU Divest's suggestion. The Faculty Senate approved a resolution backing divestment in Dec. 2013, an action also recommended by the ASOSU Senate. The ASOSU House, however, narrowly rejected a divestment resolution.

Steve Clark, a spokesman for the university, noted that the foundation is an independent organization that is not controlled by OSU.

At the same time, he noted that OSU President Ed Ray has called divestment an important issue.

Clark said the administration would continue to work with student members of OSU Divest on a proposal to eliminate the university’s own holdings in fossil fuel companies through the Public University Fund, which is managed by the state treasurer and invests money on behalf of six public universities in Oregon.

A foundation official said the foundation currently manages $667.4 million in assets with $37 million, or 5.6 percent, in fossil fuels.

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Special Projects Editor, Corvallis Gazette-Times and Albany Democrat-Herald