Students, staffers demand UVM divest funds from fossil fuels

Published: Jan. 31, 2020 at 5:57 PM EST
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Students and community members called for the University of Vermont to divest funds from fossil fuels at Friday's UVM Board of Trustees meeting. The Board also made a change to bring more diversity to the trustees. Our Dom Amato has the details.

"It is time that for the university to divest from fossil fuels and use its money to support a sustainable future," said Ben Wagner, a junior at UVM.

More than 100 students, staff and faculty members renewed their request for the school to stop investing in the fossil fuel industry and live up to their green reputation.

"Listen to the voice of our students who are sitting behind me here and our faculty to be the environmental university we claim we are," said Paul Bierman, a UVM professor.

UVM's total endowment comes in over $565 million. Officials say they invest about 5% of that in fossil fuels.

"We are making, as a board and as a university, mindful investments in the environment. It's very important to us and our brand. Investment is one small part of what we're doing overall and we're listening carefully now to the students in terms of divestment," said Ron Lumbra, the vice president of the board.

Although the board made no promises on divestment, they did make a change to bring in more diverse trustee candidates.

"We care about diversity, we're focused on diversity in recruitment and it's part of our process and quite intentional," Lumbra said.

Lumbra says it was an unwritten aspect of their process; now it's on paper.

"We need to move our language so that it's clear to our constituents, so it's clear to the students, so it's clear to the faculty, clear to our alumni base that we care about diversity and we include that in our process when it comes to bringing on news trustees," Lumbra said.

The term of office for each trustee is six years. Student trustees sit for two years. Four terms end this March.

Thursday, Gov. Phil Scott addressed the lack of diversity on the UVM Board of Trustees.

"I applaud them for reflecting on that but I think, as well, when some of the Legislature, the Legislature makes quite a few appointments to that board and they should reflect upon that when making appointments," said Scott, R-Vermont.

Scott says he keeps diversity issues in mind when appointing people across state government. He says lawmakers have a responsibility to encourage diversity, as well.