Fossil Free Penn has just called on the University to divest from holdings in fossil fuel companies in light of President Donald Trump’s decision to exit the Paris Agreement, according to an open letter published Monday.
The letter was addressed to Penn President Amy Gutmann, Chair of the Board of Trustees David Cohen and the rest of the trustees.
In the letter, FFP also asked for the trustees to provide the “logical analysis” used to justify the board’s decision in September 2016 to reject the group’s proposal to divest. FFP later staged a four-day sit-in in College Hall in support of divestment, but no agreement was reached.
Earlier on Monday, Penn announced its commitment to reaffirm participation in the American Campuses Act on Climate pledge, an agreement signed alongside 318 other colleges and universities in 2015.
But FFP says this isn’t enough.
“The statement only said we’re going to maintain the status quo,” FFP co-coordinator and rising College junior Zachary Rissman said. “Penn still isn’t taking leadership on the destructive notion that climate change is not real or strong, and that climate action is not necessary.”
Rissman added that as “a research institution that should stand for Ben Franklin’s values of truth and logic,” Penn should take a stronger stance against Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord.
Penn’s reaffirmation was co-signed with its 11 “Ivy Plus” peers. When reached for comment, Penn spokesperson Stephen MacCarthy declined to comment on FFP’s letter and referred questions to the “Ivy Plus” announcement.
In the group’s letter, FFP also acknowledged Penn’s statement, but urged the University to take a more pronounced stance, given its influence as Trump’s alma mater.
“While President Gutmann’s signature may appear equal next to those of university presidents such as Columbia, Georgetown, and MIT, these universities have already taken steps towards fossil fuel divestment; Penn’s efforts to address climate change fail in comparison,” the letter continued. (MIT opted to not divest from fossil fuel companies, but the school’s president, L. Rafael Reif, announced a five-year plan to confront climate change in October 2015.)
Penn’s announcement on Monday came as a retort of sorts to call for the University to join a consortium of over 80 college presidents in pledging to uphold the standards of the Paris Agreement. Penn was apparently not invited to join that pledge, which was coordinated by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The Bloomberg pledge is explicitly more political than the one Penn agreed to sign by referring to Trump by name, as the Yale Daily News noted in a report on Monday. While it is unclear if Penn refrained from joining the agreement for that reason, Yale seemed to at least be wary of the pledge’s political implications.
“We didn’t find political language necessary because we believe that universities should always have a role in leading in an apolitical way,” Yale spokesperson Eileen O’Connor told YDN. “In trying to improve the world today and for future generations ... it’s important to be able to engage all sides.”
Senior News Editor Rebecca Tan contributed reporting.