Dear President Coleman,
On Dec. 7, members of The Divest and Invest Campaign will be taking a Toxic Tour of Detroit, and we request that you join us. The University of Michigan has long touted a strong relationship with the city of Detroit, and over the past decade in particular, Detroit-related programs at the University have increased in number and popularity. From the Semester in Detroit program to the new Detroit Center connector bus, it’s clear that the University has many ties to the city of Detroit. However, the Divest and Invest Campaign feels obligated to call attention to the fact that the University has engaged in practices that are entirely antithetical to its pledge of belief in Detroit.
Our University has over $1 billion invested in the fossil-fuel industry, an industry that is creating a detrimental legacy in the city to which we claim allegiance. The fossil-fuel industry has a long history of polluting low income and minority communities. Our investments allow the fossil-fuel industry to continue harming communities like Detroit without consequence. These investments include significant holdings in the Marathon Petroleum Corporation. Their expansive oil refinery in the city is responsible for making Detroit’s 48217 zip code the third most toxic in the nation, with a toxic burden score over 50 times larger than the state average, according to a 2006 University of Michigan study. The Toxic Tour, led by Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice, will take us to this refinery and many other sites of pollution in the city of Detroit to see first-hand the human impacts of the fossil fuel industry.
President Coleman, you state on “A Partnership for Progress,” that “the university’s bonds with the city and metropolitan area are deep and strong… We are pleased to work alongside Detroit residents to strengthen the community and its citizens… Strong ties with Detroit make for a strong University of Michigan.” It’s unethical to strive toward a strong connection to Detroit and its people, while simultaneously supporting an industry that is directly responsible for harming the health of its citizens.
In order to appreciate the damaging impact the University’s investments are having in Detroit, it’s necessary to see the results first hand and to speak with those affected. We ask that you, President Coleman, join us on this tour, on Dec. 7, 2013 from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m., while we learn more about our role in the struggle for environmental justice, and how the University can play a key role in striving toward equality and environmental sustainability.
Marion Berger and Marissa Solomon
The Divest and Invest Campaign Coordinators
This letter has been endorsed by:
The Detroit Partnership
Fighting Obstacles Knowing Ultimate Success (FOKUS)
Greek Life Sustainability Team
Human Rights Through Education
Oxfam America at the University of Michigan
Students for Choice
Students for Clean Energy
United Students Against Sweatshops at the University of Michigan
University Sustainability Commission of Central Student Government
Taking Responsibility for the Earth and Environment of LSA Student Government
Student Union of University of Michigan