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On Oct. 8, Dartmouth College joined Brown University, Columbia University , Cornell University, and Harvard University in becoming the fifth school in the Ivy League to end direct investment in fossil fuels.

Credit: Kylie Cooper

Dartmouth College announced on Oct. 8 that it will become the fifth school in the Ivy League to end direct investment in fossil fuels and allow its current holdings in the industry to expire. 

The announcement, which follows years of student-led activism, brings Dartmouth into the majority of Ivy League schools – with Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, and Harvard University having previously stated that they will pursue similar divestment strategies. Penn has not announced a comparable plan, only committing to reach net-zero emissions from fossil fuel investments by 2050.

According to The Dartmouth, this move is the result of two new bylaws — a 2017 decision to bar new investments in fossil fuels, and a 2020 ban on fossil fuel holdings.

Dartmouth President Phil Hanlon told The Dartmouth that this change focuses on transitioning to clean energy alternatives, which he added is financially beneficial for the college. 

“What we’ve noticed is that investments in energy transitions are now comparable or better than the investment opportunities in fossil fuel companies,” he told The Dartmouth.

The decision follows Harvard University’s September announcement of a similar divestment plan. The school does not plan to make further investments in the industry, and Harvard President Lawrence Bacow said its remaining holdings are currently "in runoff mode.”

These events occurred in the wake of the 2021 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, where student body presidents of all eight Ivy Leagues signed a joint letter pressuring institutions to fully divest their endowments from the fossil fuel industry. 

The Penn-led initiative was an instance of rare collaboration among the Ivy League’s student governments, according to 2021 Penn Undergraduate Assembly President Mercedes Owens.

Penn President Amy Gutmann and other top administrators announced Penn’s most recent step in the divestment process in an email to the Penn community this April. Their plan committed to reaching net-zero emissions from endowment investments by 2050 but was criticized by student activists for failing to completely divest from fossil fuels or reach net-zero sooner.

Following the Dartmouth announcement, Fossil Free Penn reposted a tweet from environmentalist Bill McKibben directed at Penn, Yale, and Princeton — the only Ivy League schools still directly invested in the fossil fuel industry — on its Instagram story. 

“That leaves @UPenn, @Yale, and @Princeton still trying to somehow make a buck off of the end of the world,” McKibben wrote in the tweet.

FFP's Instagram caption criticized the University for "being in almost last place for caring about climate change.”

According to the Student Sustainability Association at Penn’s definition of divestment, no Ivy League has met the standard for full divestment — which stipulates no direct or indirect investments in fossil fuel companies, including holdings in major indices like the S&P 500. 

In a statement on Twitter following the announcement, Divest Dartmouth, a student activist group, called the move a “direct result” of student activism and a victory for the fight against climate change.

“Dartmouth’s announcement is a great development, but this fight is by no means over,” the group wrote in the statement. “We still must push for Dartmouth to further prioritize climate justice, taking the actions necessary to build infrastructure to lower our impact on the climate.”