UMass Statement on Fossil Fuel Divestment and Student Protests

UMass system leaders today said they would advocate for a policy that would see the five-campus UMass system divest and prohibit direct investment in fossil fuel companies.

Victor Woolridge, chairman of the University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees, and UMass President Marty Meehan said the step they were recommending represented “a logical next step” on the action the University took last year when UMass divested its direct investments in coal companies.

“Throughout my career, I have stood for environmental progress and reducing the carbon footprint,” President Meehan said. “Although we find ourselves meeting in a moment of contention, I embrace and I believe that the University leadership broadly shares the goals that the divest-campaign students have been advocating for.”

Chairman Woolridge said: “We firmly believe that man-made climate change is a situation that we need to address and further believe that we are charting a responsible course.”

Under the proposal, Woolridge and Meehan committed to supporting and advocating for a policy under which UMass would divest and prohibit direct investment in fossil fuel companies. They said the relevant UMass bodies – the University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees, the University of Massachusetts Foundation, and the University of Massachusetts Foundation Socially Responsible Investing Advisory Committee – would address the proposal at their next meetings.

Despite the pledge of advocacy for divestment from fossil fuels by Meehan and Woolridge, the student protesters chose to continue their occupation of the Whitmore Administration Building after it was closed for business. Meehan and Wooldridge expressed disappointment in students’ decision not to advance divestment discussion.

Following the students’ continued insistence to remain in the building, UMass Amherst officials decided about 9 p.m. to order about 15 protestors removed from Whitmore and to charge them with trespassing. This followed several warnings by UMass Police to the students that they would be arrested if they did not voluntarily leave the building.