ASG urges Northwestern to divest from fossil fuels in new petition

Ally Mutnick, Assistant Campus Editor

The Associated Student Government announced a petition Wednesday urging the University to divest endowment funds from the coal industry and other fossil fuels, while encouraging further investment in sustainable green technologies.

The online petition, which was co-sponsored by the Northwestern University Responsible Endowment Coalition, is based off the ASG resolution that passed Jan. 30 calling for a change in investment interests.

Mark Silberg, the ASG vice president for sustainability who helped organize the petition, specifically stresses divestment from coal — the most harmful fossil fuel.

“If we as an institution value sustainability, we value human health and well-being, why would we consider profiting from something that has such devastating impacts?” he said.

Silberg said 20 percent of NU’s $7.4 billion endowment is invested in fossil fuel companies.

The petition currently has 800 signatures from faculty, staff, students and alumni. Silberg said petition organizers have been promoting the petition at NU events and using social media and email lists to encourage people to sign.

He said the petition was well received by groups on campus.

“Faculty, staff, students and alumni — it’s a really impressive mix of all those constituents,” he said. “We’re receiving broad support from all across the university.”

Silberg said NU’s faculty senate will vote on the petition next week. Once the petition has garnered enough support, it can be presented to the University’s Sustainability Council, which will make a final recommendation to the administration.

He said he hopes the recommendation and the petition will be delivered to the University’s Board of Trustees by the end of the academic year.

The University has divested endowment funds before in Sudan in 2006 and from South Africa during the apartheid era, so the decision would not be unprecedented, Silberg said.

He noted that possible new Environmental Protection Agency standards on greenhouse gases may include emission caps, and NU would be wise to take action now.

“Chicago has taken steps to remove coal from our energy production,” he said. “It doesn’t make any sense why the University would continue to invest in coal.”