Student Activists: Boston University Alumni Last Best Hope of Mankind

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BOSTON — Student activists at Boston University, frustrated with being stonewalled by administrators as part of their quest to convince the school to divest from all endowment-related holdings in fossil fuels, appear to have adopted a new tactic.

The focus, according to a recent Facebook post, will now be on convincing wealthy alumni to withhold making donations to BU until the activists’ demands are met.

“The BU administration has refused to listen,” the group claimed. “As of the last Board of Trustees meeting, BU remains invested in pernicious oil and gas companies that actively fight against climate justice and an equitable future.

“Since student voices are not enough to sway this administration, we have no choice but to call upon another important body of BU — alumni.”

The activists are hoping to convince at least 2,000 alumni to sign their pledge by August 3.

“DivestBU asks alumni to withhold donations to Boston University until it divests from companies continuing to explore for fossil fuel reserves,” the group added. “We expect hits to the university’s rankings, reputation, and financial reserves to force the administration to pay attention to student voices, but are dismayed that this is what it takes.”

At least one alumnus has already hit back. Andy Yang, a BU graduate who lists himself in his Facebook profile as an insurance professional living in China, questioned the group’s approach in a post of his own:

The group quickly responded to Yang’s post:

Meanwhile, the activists’  alumni pledge itself claims BU’s investment portfolio “legitimizes the fossil fuel industry, the deconstruction that it has perpetuated, and the injustice it has fostered towards poor communities.”

Student Ivan Badanjak, who heads the organization’s campus engagement efforts, told the school’s student newspaper he believes that 2,000 signatures “is a large enough number to afford legitimacy to our petition.”

The school’s endowment currently totals roughly $1.6 billion. It is unclear what percentage of that sum is invested in fossil fuel holdings.

“Unfortunately Boston University is not transparent regarding the makeup of its endowment, so we do not know the exact percentage invested in fossil fuels (though for higher education institutions it ranges from about 2-8%) and we cannot point to specific funds or stocks owned by BU that have underperformed,” DivestBU noted in another Facebook post.