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Advisory committee votes to recommend coal divestment

The Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Policies endorsed University divestment from the nation’s 15 largest coal companies yesterday afternoon, Brown Divest Coal and ACCRIP members confirmed.

“We are still finalizing the text to send to (President Christina Paxson), which contains our reasons for recommendation and proposed guidelines for screening companies we invest in,” said Ian Trupin ’13.5, a student member of ACCRIP and former Herald opinions columnist.

Paxson will receive the committee’s recommendation in the next few days, Trupin said, at which point the document will be posted on ACCRIP’s website for public access.

Marisa Quinn, vice president for public affairs and University relations, said Paxson’s office “(looks) forward to ACCRIP’s recommendation on the matter of divestment” but said she would not comment further until the recommendation is made public.

Paxson indicated that the Corporation will discuss coal divestment when it meets in May, according to a statement from Brown Divest Coal. Paxson will present ACCRIP’s recommendation to the Corporation, Trupin said.

The Corporation has previously voted to divest from HEI Hotels, tobacco companies and companies profiting from Darfur after receiving recommendations from ACCRIP to divest.

ACCRIP might advise divestment if it is likely to change the company for the better or if a company’s activity is deemed so harmful that profiting from its business contradicts the University’s ethical principles, Trupin said. He added that the latter justification — coal’s effects on global warming — prompted the committee’s recommendation to divest.

“Brown Divest Coal has impacted our decision a lot,” Trupin said. “They were very helpful in providing information for our consideration.”

Last semester, Brown Divest Coal sent ACCRIP “a letter expressing our ethical imperative and reasoning for divestment,” said member Rachel Bishop ’13. ACCRIP then used the group’s research in conjunction with its own findings.

“ACCRIP made their decision because they recognized that coal is a very nasty industry and the University shouldn’t be profiting from it,” said Emily Kirkland ’13, another member of Brown Divest Coal.

According to a press release from Brown Divest Coal, the University’s investments in these 15 coal companies total less than $2 million. Quinn previously told The Herald the University’s holdings in the companies make up less than 0.1 percent of its total investments.

Brown Divest Coal has been actively campaigning for the University to divest from fossil fuels.

“We’ve generated a huge amount of student, faculty and alumni support to convey the message that (divestment) is important,” Kirkland said.