The University of Michigan’s Central Student Government met virtually Tuesday evening to discuss another resolution calling on the University’s Board of Regents and President Mark Schlissel to divest the University’s investments from all fossil fuel companies, re-upping their concerns from 2020. 

The assembly discussed passing the divestment resolution at last week’s meeting with Climate Action Movement member Matt Sehrsweeney, a Rackham student. Fossil fuel divestment has been an ongoing point of contention at the University for multiple years due to student activism, with CSG discussing the issue as early as 2015. 

The University has frozen all future investments in fossil fuels and has been studying their investment policies since the freeze was announced last February. Since then there has been little news on the progress of this evaluation, leading many student activist groups to question if progress has been made. 

The resolution reminds the Board of Regents that in addition to CSG, the LSA Student Government and Faculty Senate have urged divestment from fossil fuels as well. The resolution specifically calls for the creation of a standing committee for responsible investing, which would be composed of students, faculty and staff.

Business junior Jeein Shim introduced the resolution to the assembly by calling attention to other prominent universities that have divested from fossil fuels.

“(The resolution) declares a stance for the entire U of M endowment to quickly divest from (fossil fuels),” Shim said. “There’s a lot of precedent provided for this as well, such as Stanford University, Columbia and Boston University. It has the support of many student groups as well, and we also want to establish a standing committee, whether it includes some student voices as well or not.”

LSA junior Zackariah Farah co-sponsored the resolution and spoke to the assembly about why the University needs to quickly divest the $1.12 billion that the University currently has invested in fossil fuel companies.

“By investing in those companies and holding those investments, we are supporting those companies,” Farah said. “We are maintaining that demand for those stocks. While many other universities around the world have already divested their portfolios, their endowments, from all fossil fuel companies, it’s time that we follow suit and we do the right thing.”

The last time CSG took a stand on fossil fuel divestment was at the 2020 Association of Big Ten Students conference. CSG sponsored a resolution urging all Big Ten schools to freeze its investments in fossil fuels and commit to research and action on divestment in fiscal year 2020 . This resolution passed unanimously among all Big 10 student governments.

As he called for a renewed emphasis on divestment, Farah said that all students have a stake in the endowment.

“I feel that it’s time that we renew that stance, urging the Board of Regents to quickly divest from fossil fuel stocks, and also call for the creation of a Standing Committee for Responsible Investing, which would fundamentally change the relationship between students and our endowment,” Farah said. “We are, after all, key stakeholders in this University. It’s our money that helps fund that endowment.”

Because the decision to divest is solely up to the Regents, Farah and the other sponsors of the resolution want to start having conversations with the Regents about divestment and creating the SCRI.

“If (the Regents) don’t want to divest the fossil fuel stocks from the government, obviously it’s not going to happen,” Farah said. “So we really need to convince them to fundamentally change the relationship between the students and our endowment by creating the Standing Committee for Responsible Investment.”

After a brief discussion on some of the specific language of the resolution that needs to be changed, the resolution was referred back to the communications and resolutions committees for further discussion.

Rackham student Austin Glass expressed his concerns about the wording of the resolution. Glass said it was unclear who would be on the potential task force, as well as on whom CSG was calling to create it. 

“I would ask for greater specificity, as to whether you intend for this resolution to create an assembly task force or as to whether you're asking, or putting forward this resolution with the understanding that the President will create a task force, maybe specifying slightly more about what the potential membership of that task force would be,” Glass said.

Daily Staff Reporter Martina Zacker can be reached at mzacker@umich.edu.

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