PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Brown University has decided not to divest from coal companies, saying that it would not be "the right tool" to address climate change and that teaching and research are more effective strategies.
The university said the Corporation, its governing body, opted against divestment after "expansive and robust discussion" at its Saturday meeting and after months of deliberation.
An advisory committee on corporate responsibility had recommended the university divest from the largest coal companies, and the student-led group Brown Divest Coal has been pushing the administration on the issue for months.
In a letter sent to the campus community Saturday, Brown President Christina Paxson said that there was agreement that coal contributes to climate change and results in social harm, but that divestment is not "the right tool for achieving the societal goals to which we all aspire."
She also said that Brown's holdings are too small for divestiture to have a direct effect on the companies' corporate profits.
"Divestiture would convey only a nebulous statement — that coal is harmful — without speaking to the technological and policy actions needed to reduce the harm from coal — actions where Brown can make real and important contributions through teaching and research," Paxson said.
Paxson said the university can and should do more to address climate change, and that she hopes a task force on the issue will identify "bold and aggressive ways" to do so.
In an Oct. 18 letter to Paxson, Christopher Bull, chairman of the Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Policies, reaffirmed the panel's earlier recommendation in favor of divestment, saying, "The companies recommended for divestment perpetrate grave, indeed egregious, social harm, and there is no possible way to square our profiting from such harm with the values and principles of the university."
Members of Brown Divest Coal expressed disappointment.
"To me this vote shows that Brown doesn't take its commitments to social justice and combating climate change seriously," said sophomore Kari Malkki in a statement released by the group. "Today our administration was too timid to challenge the status quo, but we're going to keep pushing them to stand for what is right."
Senior Luke Taylor said Monday that Brown Divest Coal is concerned the school is treating student input lightly and has disregarded the committee's recommendation. He said the Corporation's decision has only galvanized the group's resolve.