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Fossil Free Penn submitted a recommendation to the University Council in November 2015 to have the University divest from fossil fuel companies. 

Credit: Carson Kahoe

Penn will not divest from fossil fuel industries, the Board of Trustees announced on Thursday.

The decision came upon the unanimous recommendation of an Ad Hoc Advisory Committee on Divestment assigned to review divestment. The committee consisted of faculty, students, staff and alumni.

In a letter to Fossil Free Penn explaining the trustees' decision, Chairman of the Board of Trustees David Cohen said the “moral evil” protesters linked to fossil fuel companies did not rise to a level “on par with apartheid or genocide.”

“While the Trustees recognize that the ‘bar’ of moral evil presents a rigorously high barrier of consideration, we are resolute in our belief that such a high barrier must be maintained so that investment decisions and the endowment are not used for the purpose of making public policy statements,” Cohen wrote.

In lieu of divestment, the committee recommended several strategies for the University to pursue: consider whether the companies Penn invests in, or does business with, take into account the effects of climate change and using “proxy voting” to increase attention to energy and sustainability efforts.

In March 2015, over 30 percent of undergraduates voted in a non-binding referendum on divestment, with close to 90 percent of votes in support of divesting from fossil fuel companies.

The group Fossil Free Penn submitted a proposal in November 2015 to the University Council Steering Committee to have Penn divest from fossil fuels and later released an open letter on April 8, 2016 urging divestment that featured over 100 faculty signatories from 10 of Penn’s 12 schools.

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