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About 100 members of Fossil Free Penn shut down a Board of Trustees meeting on Nov. 8. They demanded a town hall to discuss the University's potential divestment from fossil fuels.

Credit: Kylie Cooper

Penn will establish a new group to recruit students and researchers to solve environmental issues, Penn President Amy Gutmann and Provost Wendell Pritchett announced in an email to students and faculty.

The Environmental Innovations Initiative will expand climate-related research, recruit faculty in sustainability disciplines, and develop educational programs related to the environment, according to the email. Earth and Environmental Science professor Joseph Francisco and Anthropology Department Chair Kathleen Morrison will lead the initiative and will lead an international search for the group's first executive director next semester.

The announcement of the initiative follows a surge of action by students and faculty over the past months calling on the University to more directly address the climate crisis. 

Last month, the Faculty Senate Executive Committee announced it will create a faculty group to expand research on the "climate emergency."

In October, Penn released its Climate and Sustainability Action Plan 3.0, highlighting its five-year goals to promote sustainability on campus. The new plan aims to increase the academic study of environmental issues, finalize a power purchase agreement that would help offset the University’s emissions, and promote sustainable behaviors among members of the Penn community.

On Nov. 8, Fossil Free Penn shut down a Board of Trustees meeting with protests. Protesters gave short speeches and chanted slogans demanding that the University divest from fossil fuels, ultimately forcing the meeting to be suspended.