Days before Cornell’s graduation, the Cornell Employee Assembly overwhelmingly passed Resolution 1 by a vote of 11-1: “Cornell Investment and Divestment Strategies for a Sustainable Future.”
Sponsored by EA members BJ Siasoco and Linda Croll Howell, the resolution recognizes “the effectiveness of divestment campaigns” and the “impact such symbolic campaigns can have in creating needed change.”
The Employee Assembly’s resolution aligns with KyotoNOW!’s goal of divestment without “negative financial consequences affecting staff employment and others at the university.” The 21 year phased divestment plan called for by the Student Assembly, Faculty Senate, and Graduate and Professional Student Assembly was chosen for just that reason — to allow Cornell’s investment managers ample time to shift money out of the university’s investment in the top-200 companies in terms of fossil fuel holdings.*
The EA’s resolution also asks Cornell to eliminate carbon emissions from the university by 2035. With the EA’s vote, all five assemblies at Cornell (Student Assembly, Faculty Senate, Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, and University Assembly) have passed resolutions supporting acceleration of Cornell’s Climate Action Plan from 2050 to 2035.
Knowing the importance of accountability in University governance, the EA resolution asks that “the President of Cornell will submit an annual report to the Employee Assembly describing the progress that the University has made in becoming carbon neutral and efforts and considerations toward divesting from companies holding the largest fossil fuel reserves.”
Cornell employees have now formally joined undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty in the movement to divest the university’s endowment from an industry whose business model benefits few at the expense of many. President Skorton and Board of Trustees: can you hear us?
*According to Cornell’s Investment Office, 3% of the university’s endowment ($5.7B at the end of the 2013 fiscal year) is invested in the energy sector. The “energy sector” includes utility companies and companies involved in the distribution and transportation of fossil fuels but do not own the fossil fuels themselves. Thus, 3% is an upper bound to the amount of money in Cornell’s endowment that would be shifted from fossil fuel companies to other investments.