What is divestment?
Divestment is the act of removing investments from companies that are unethical or destructive. DivestUMW is a student campaign committed to the responsible investment of our school’s endowment, which means that we're urging the Board of Visitors (BOV) to divest from fossil fuel companies that both exploit marginalized communities and negatively impact the environment.
What is the Board of Visitors?
The BOV is a governing body of twelve individuals, appointed by the governor, who serve to "promote the welfare of the institution." Their duties include, but are not limited to: appointing the President of the University, setting faculty salaries, fixing tuition and fees, and of course, overseeing the investment of the school's endowment.
Is divestment really enough to make a difference?
While it's true that divestment isn't the only thing that must be done to combat the impending environmental crisis, it accomplishes something essential for the movement’s progress. When large, influential institutions like our University divest, it conveys our unwillingness to support or endorse the exploits of fossil fuel companies. If enough organizations did the same, not only would our message be impossible to ignore, but we'd also make it harder for these companies to thrive.
How much does UMW invest in fossil fuels?
We know that the UMW Foundation, the body that controls the investments, invests a portion of our endowment (mostly donations) in fossil fuels, but there is no exact percentage available because the UMW Foundation refuses to release that information. This is a reason why DivestUMW fights. We believe that at a public institution, this information should be available to its own community.
Is divestment financially viable?
Even though in the past, fossil fuel companies have been some of the most lucrative on the planet, the “stranded assets” argument – that fossil fuel investments will become worthless if international agreements on climate change are met – suggests they are several times overvalued. With consistently dropping coal prices and the volatility of oil costs, it is likely that divestment will actually benefit our endowment.
Will divestment make my tuition go up?
Tuition will not increase as a result of divestment. The increases in tuition are unrelated to divestment and are a result of a lack of funding for higher education in Virginia and a bill passed in the early 2000s that allows university boards to raise their tuition “as needed to cover their expenses.”
Who does climate change impact?
Climate change impacts everybody, but especially poor communities, communities of color, and communities where those two marginalizations intersect. As we’ve seen in Michigan, in Flint & Detroit, and our home state of Virginia in the Hampton Roads area, poor, rural communities of color are routinely hit hardest by climate change. Facing drastic sea level rise and governments that ignore them in favor of more “profitable” communities, these marginalized communities routinely suffer as a result of climate change directly coming from companies like Dominion, ExxonMobil, Shell, and BP.
Why should I care?
Our universities should be accountable to students, not to corporations. If we, as students and faculty, want to divest, we should have the right to make that happen - and that’s what’s being (and has been) taken away from us.
What can I do?
Get involved and get informed! Look out on our social media pages for opportunities to take action. Attend Board meetings and hold our university accountable for its decisions.
Finally, attend our weekly meetings Monday at 9 pm in the ITCC!