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OSU foundation rejects fossil fuels divestment campaign

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A campaign led by Oregon State University faculty, staff and students to persuade the OSU Foundation to divest its holdings in fossil fuels has failed.

The foundation has announced that it will not divest, angering OSU Divest supporters who said they will continue the battle.

In a letter distributed to the OSU community, Ruth A. Beyer, who chairs the foundation’s Board of Trustees, cited divestment’s “impact on the foundation’s portfolio” and whether it would advance the cause of climate change as key drivers of the decision.

While noting that fossil fuels constitute only 6 percent of the foundation’s nearly $700 million in holdings, Beyer wrote that “categorically removing this sector would violate prudent investing rules that characterize best practices in asset allocation.”

Beyer also said that OSU’s record on environmental and energy issues was worthy of the support of the foundation, which is a nonprofit entity governed separately from the university.

“OSU is at the forefront in the research and development of technologies designed to improve the deployment of solar, wind and wave energy,” Beyer wrote, adding that OSU is an “unquestioned global leader” in small-scale nuclear energy.

“In short, our university’s actions dictate clearly our real and meaningful commitment to reducing carbon emissions. We believe that supporting this leadership financially is the best way for the foundation to contribute to the goal of carbon reduction.”

Ken Winograd, an OSU professor in the College of Education and spokesman for OSU Divest, expressed disappointment in the decision.

“We believe the foundation’s rejection of divestment undermines the university’s goals for sustainability both locally and globally,” Winograd said. “The foundation is disingenuous regarding fiduciary duty by not doing all it can to protect the future of our students and, instead, continuing to support an industry whose business plan is to pollute and degrade until the planet is completely exhausted.”

The campaign received the backing of the OSU Faculty Senate and the ASOSU Senate, although the House branch of the student government defeated an OSU Divest resolution.

The foundation formed a special advisory group to consider the OSU Divest issue. The committee recommended not to divest and the foundation’s executive committee concurred, Beyer wrote.

Winograd chastised the foundation for failing to notice the on-campus support for the campaign in Beyer’s letter.

“Regretfully, the foundation’s press release failed to mention the OSU Faculty Senate resolution in December calling for divestment, a blatant example of the foundation’s institutional arrogance,” Winograd said. “Our group will continue working for divestment.”

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